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Al-Jazeera’s journalist killed during clashes in the West Bank

A senior Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been fatally shot during clashes in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.

The 51-year-old veteran journalist was killed on Wednesday with a single bullet to the face while reporting on an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. She was fired at despite wearing a press vest, according to Al-Jazeera.

Al-Jazeera wrote that Shatha Hanaysha, a reporter who shared a vehicle with Abu Akleh, said the Israeli army had been adamant on shooting to kill”.

We were all wearing vests and helmets,” Ms Hanaysha said. “We were four journalists in an exposed area. There were no confrontations or shots being fired by Palestinian fighters.”

“The occupation army did not stop firing even after she collapsed,” she said. “I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots.”

The media group also said another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was wounded in the back but is in stable condition.

The Al-Jazeera bureau chief in Palestine Walid al-Omari said it was clear the bullet that killed Abu Akleh had been shot by an Israeli sniper.

“The eyewitnesses told us the bullet was shot from where the Israeli occupation soldiers were located,” he said.

“It is a big shock because the journalists were in an open area that was away from [Israeli] military confrontation with Palestinian resistance,” he said.

Abu Akleh’s last message sent to Al-Jazeera was an email at 6:13 am in which she wrote: “Occupation forces storm Jenin and besiege a house in the Jabriyat neighbourhood. On the way there, I will bring you news as soon as the picture becomes clear.”

Israel offers joint pathological investigation

The Israeli army confirmed it had carried out an operation early Wednesday in the Jenin refugee camp, but denied that it had deliberately targeted journalists.

“The [army] of course does not aim at journalists,” a military official said, cited by Al-Jazeera.

The Israeli military said there had been an exchange of fire between suspects and security forces and that it had been “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel had offered a joint investigation with the Palestinians.

We have offered the Palestinians a joint pathological investigation into the sad death of journalist Shireen Abu Aqla. Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth.

— יאיר לפיד – Yair Lapid🟠 (@yairlapid) May 11, 2022

The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority found themselves at loggerheads over the event with the former claiming that armed Palestinians had likely mistakenly shot and killed Abu Akleh.

“During the operation in Jenin refugee camp, suspects fired an enormous amount of gunfire at troops and hurled explosive devices. [Israeli] forces fired back,” the army said in a statement.

The army said it was “looking into the possibility that journalists were injured, potentially by Palestinian gunfire.” The Times of Israel reported that in a video from the scene, Palestinian gunmen could be seen firing off rounds; at one point, one Palestinian said that an Israeli soldier had been hit by gunfire.

The soldiers’ behaviour during the raid got the backing of the Israeli government in the words of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“According to the information in our hands right now, there is a good chance that armed Palestinians, firing wildly, brought about the tragic death of the journalist,” PM Bennett said in a statement.

An “execution” and “an ugly crime” is what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Abu Akleh’s death. The Hamas terror group accused Israel of “deliberately assassinating” her.

The purpose of the Israeli military’s presence in what the Times of Israel called “Jenin’s flashpoint refugee camp” and in the nearby town of Burqin was to arrest terror suspects. The Israeli media outlet wrote that the raid came as a response to a rising wave of terror attacks in Israeli cities.

“But even if soldiers shot at — or, God forbid, hurt — someone who was not involved, this happened in battle, during a firefight, where this Palestinian is with the shooters. So this thing can happen,” Israeli military spokesperson Ran Kochav told Army Radio.

However, in the footage seen by the Times of Israel, the journalists could be seen on their own with no armed Palestinians nearby. “According to witnesses, Abu Akleh’s team was outside the refuge camp, well away from the scenes of the clashes,” the media outlet wrote.

Reactions

The US ambassador to Israel Tom Nides has called for a probe into the killing of Abu Akleh, who holds US citizenship.

“Very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin,” he tweeted.

Very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh of @AJArabic @AJEnglish. I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.

— Ambassador Tom Nides (@USAmbIsrael) May 11, 2022

Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, has condemned the killing of Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank, tweeting: “I strongly condemn the killing of Al Jazeera’s reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot with live fire this morning while covering an Israeli security forces’ operation in Jenin, in occupied West Bank.”

“I call for an immediate and thorough investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable. Media workers should never be targeted.”

(1/2) I strongly condemn the killing of Al-Jazeera’s reporter, Shireen Abu Aqla, who was shot with live fire this morning while covering an #Israel|i security forces’ operation in #Jenin, in occupied West Bank.

— Tor Wennesland (@TWennesland) May 11, 2022

Al-Jazeera Media Network condemned, in a statement, what it dubbed a “blatant murder” that “violates international laws and norms”, and called Abu Akleh’s death a “heinous crime, through which it is intended to prevent the media from fulfilling its message”.

Al-Jazeera’s managing director Giles Trendle said that the network was “shocked and saddened” by the killing of Abu Akleh.

“We have had a history throughout the world but particularly in this region, where we have had tragedies,” he said, calling for a transparent investigation of the killing of Abu Akleh.

“As journalists, we carry on. Our mission is to carry on. We will not be silenced despite attempts to silence us,” Trendle also said.

“Our mission is always to carry on to inform the world what is happening. And that is more important ever.”

For its part, the Palestinian Authority presidency has denounced Abu Akleh’s killing as a “crime of execution”.

“The presidency holds the Israeli government fully responsible for this heinous crime,” it said in a statement, adding that Abu Akleh’s killing “is part of the occupation’s policy of targeting journalists to obscure the truth and commit crimes silently”.

For his part, Anthony Bellanger, the secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said Abu Akleh’s killing is a “deliberate systematic targeting of a journalist”.

“Yet again journalists, wearing press vests, clearly identified were targeted by Israeli snipers,” he said in a statement, adding that IFJ “will seek to add this case to the ICC complaint… detailing such systematic targeting.”


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