Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh shot dead while covering Israeli raid in West Bank

11 May 2022, 16:26

Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known face in the Middle East, began working for Al Jazeera in 1997
Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known face in the Middle East, began working for Al Jazeera in 1997. Picture: Al Jazeera

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A journalist has been killed and another injured while covering a raid by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who worked for Al Jazeera, was shot in the head in the town of Jenin early on Wednesday and died soon afterwards.

Her producer, Ali Samoudi, is in a stable condition in hospital after being shot in the back.

Al Jazeera accused Israel of "deliberately targeting and killing our colleague".

The Israel army initially claimed Ms Abu Akleh may have been killed by stray Palestinian fire, saying militants were also present in the area.

However, army chief Lt Gen Aviv Kochavi later stepped back from this, saying "at this stage, we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death".

Ms Abu Akleh, who was also a US citizen, was a respected and well-known face in the Middle East. Her death reverberated across the region and on social media.

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Palestinian cameraman Mujahed al-Saadi, of Palestine Today TV, weeps as he escorts the body of Shireen Abu Akleh with other journalists
Palestinian cameraman Mujahed al-Saadi, of Palestine Today TV, weeps as he escorts the body of Shireen Abu Akleh with other journalists. Picture: Getty

The 51-year-old was born in Jerusalem and began working for Al Jazeera in 1997.

She was hit by a bullet on the outskirts of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli military said its forces came under attack with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and they fired back.

Israel released a video of Palestinian gunmen firing in an alley of the camp, later saying the video was meant to bolster its contention that Palestinians were firing in the area.

However, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released its own video casting doubt on those claims.

The B'Tselem video was taken by one of its researchers who walked between the location of the militants in the video and where Ms Abu Akleh was shot.

They appeared to be about 300 metres apart and separated by walls and buildings.

Dror Sadot, a spokeswoman for the group, said its evidence shows "there is no way" the gunfire shown in the video killed Ms Abu Akleh.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had noted in the video a militant is heard shouting that a soldier has been wounded.

Because no Israelis were hurt, he said that suggested the gunmen had shot a journalist instead.

Mr Samoudi said he and Ms Abu Akleh were among a group of seven reporters who went to cover the raid.

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Shireen Abu Akleh was killed early on Wednesday
Shireen Abu Akleh was killed early on Wednesday. Picture: Getty

He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly marked them as reporters, and passed by Israeli troops so the soldiers would know that they were there.

He said there were no militants or other civilians in the area - only the reporters and the army, adding the military's suggestion they were shot by militants was a "complete lie".

In a statement on its channel, Al Jazeera called on the international community to "condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague".

"We pledge to prosecute the perpetrators legally, no matter how hard they try to cover up their crime, and bring them to justice," the broadcaster said.

It aired a separate video showing Ms Abu Akleh lying motionless on the side of a road next to a wall as another journalist crouches nearby and a man screams for an ambulance.

Condolences poured in from across the Arab world.

Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera, condemned the killing "in the strongest terms", calling it a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law" and a "blatant attack on media freedom".

The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, tweeted that he was "very sad" to learn of Ms Abu Akleh's death and called for a "thorough investigation".

The Palestinian Authority condemned what it said was a "shocking crime" committed by Israeli forces.

The Arab League condemned the shooting and blamed Israel, and Jordan's foreign minister Ayman Safadi called the shooting "a heinous crime".

Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from Jenin.

The town, and particularly its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant bastion.