Al Jazeera journalist shot and killed by Israeli forces

Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been shot and killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, the Qatar-based news channel and Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Despite wearing a press vest, the 51-year-old Palestinian journalist was shot in the head as she was covering an Israeli attack on the Jenin refugee camp.  

In a statement, Al Jazeera called Abu Akleh’s death a “heinous crime, through which it is intended to prevent the media from fulfilling its message” and urged the international community to hold Israel responsible.

“In a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine,” it said.

Another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was also wounded in the attack.

“We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming,” he told Al Jazeera. “The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen.”

“Crime of execution”

Al-Samoudi and other journalists said there were no Palestinian fighters present when the journalists were shot.

“We were all wearing vests and helmets,” said Shatha Hanaysha, a reporter who was travelling with Abu Akleh. “We were four journalists in an exposed area. There were no confrontations or shots being fired by Palestinian fighters.”

The Palestinian Authority 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.

An Israeli military statement confirmed it conducted an operation in Jenin refugee camp but said it did not target journalists. The military quickly backtracked on its earlier apparent misleading claims of who may have been responsible, which went against actual eyewitness accounts, and said it will investigate the incident.  

Widespread condemnation

Giles Trendle, Al Jazeera’s managing director, said that “Killing journalists… is a war crime” and reminded how Al Jazeera and other media organisations had their building bombed a year ago.

Qatar’s deputy foreign minister Lolwah Alkhater condemned the killing and called for the “state-sponsored Israeli terrorism” to stop. Al Jazzera is based in Qatar.

Tom Nides, the US ambassador to Israel, confirmed Abu Akleh was a US citizen and called for a thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists said it was another example of “journalists, wearing press vests, clearly identified were targeted by Israeli snipers.” They said they will submit the case to the International Criminal Court.

Tributes pour in  

The veteran journalist, who was a Christian, was born in Jerusalem in 1971. After graduating from journalism school, she returned to Palestine to work for several media outlets, joining Al Jazeera in 1997.

Thousands of people gathered to pay respects as her body arrived in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. And tributes have poured in since her death was announced.  

Violence has surged in the West Bank in recent weeks as Israeli forces stepped up their assault on the Jenin refugee camp, which has left at least 26 Palestinians dead.  

Attacks on al-Aqsa mosque over the last month has further heightened tensions, while in occupied East Jerusalem Palestinians continue to see their homes be razed by the Israeli military.

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