Jerusalem24 – This morning, Palestinian veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli military forces during her coverage of an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank. Her colleague, Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back.
They were both rushed to the Ibn Sina hospital nearby where Abu Akleh was pronounced dead after succumbing to a wound she sustained to the head.
The Israeli authorities including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it was “likely” she was shot by Palestinian gunmen.
Bennett said that Israel offered to hold a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority (PA), a claim that Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, denied. Bennett further claimed that the PA had rejected the offer.
Human Rights organizations including B’Tselem cast doubt on the credibility of any forthcoming investigation conducted by the Israeli authorities.
“It’s very unlikely that Shireen or the thousands of Palestinians killed by Israel will receive justice,” Salem Barahmeh, the Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, told Jerusalem24. “Often there’s no investigation. There’s no proper form of accountability or justice.”
A 2022 review of an Israeli investigation into the targeting of journalists by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights found that Israeli investigations did not comply with international or British standards. The UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza protests investigated Israel’s killing of Palestinians during the protests, of which two were clearly marked members of the press.
“She was the voice of her people and she brought our story to the world in an extremely powerful way.”
Spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Information Maher Awawdeh told Jerusalem24 that “the coming hours and days will include and will bring several activities towards achieving justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and for our journalists. We will be also approaching the relevant international organizations such as UNSCO [the office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process], the OCHR [the UN Human Rights Office], and the IFJ [the International Federation of Journalists]. We will also discuss making a submission to international legal institutions to see how this will proceed.”
Abu Akleh was a Palestinian icon within the journalism community, covering events from the late 1990s until this morning.
Witness statements and video evidence contradict official Israeli position
Several journalists present at the scene when Abu Akleh was shot have come forward with witness statements.
Ali Samoudi, who was hospitalized this morning after being shot with live ammunition in the back, stated, “We were going in to cover the military operation in Jenin camp and suddenly they started shooting us with no warning.” He insisted there was no shooting at the scene prior to their arrival.
Shatha Hanaysha, a reporter for the Middle East Eye and Ultra Palestine was crouching down next to Abu Akleh when she was killed. Hanaysha told the Quds News Network, “The shooting did not stop even though Shireen was already on the ground.”
“People were unable to reach her until one of the guys was able to jump in and he grabbed me and then went back for Shireen.” Hanaysha said she felt this constituted a deliberate attempt to kill them.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs this morning posted a video of a Palestinian gunman firing down an alleyway, claiming that the indiscriminate fire may have killed Abu Akleh.
B’Tselem debunked that claim a few hours later when they identified the location of the gunman footage, several hundred meters away from where Abu Akleh was shot and killed, and out of the gunman’s line of sight.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which initially claimed that the footage demonstrated the gunman “likely” hit Abu Akleh, immediately asserted on Twitter that no such claim had been made. Members of the public on social media confronted that assertion with screenshots of the initial claim.
There was no claim that the gunfire in the clip killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Rather, that Palestinian terrorists were firing indiscriminately, and that they identified shooting down someone that looked to them like a soldier (ie, perhaps wearing a vest and helmet).
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) May 11, 2022
Palestinian Journalists Syndicate to pursue legal avenues in ICC
Musa Al-Shaer, a Palestinian journalist and member of the Palestine Journalists Syndicate, told Jerusalem24 that the killing “adds another case to the Palestinian file that includes Yasser Murtaja, Nasser Ishtaya, and Muath Amarneh,” listing journalists that were slain by Israeli forces in the past, as well as Muath Amarneh who lost his eye to an Israeli bullet.
The head of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, Nasser Abu Bakr, confirmed that a case surrounding the targeting of journalists had been referred to the International Criminal Court.
He said that the number of journalists killed has reached 55 since 2000, and that since 2013 more than 7,000 attacks on journalists have been documented.
Abu Bakr added that Israel seeks to discourage journalists from covering its violations, especially in the Jenin refugee camp, and that any information released by the Israeli authorities concerning the killing of Abu Akleh would be misleading.
This evening a large number of journalists gathered in the offices of Al-Jazeera in Ramallah, as well as friends and other colleagues. All arrived to honor Abu Akleh’s work and memory.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that the Israeli authorities had declared Abu Akleh was shot by Palestinian gunmen, when they in fact said it was “likely” she had been shot by Palestinian gunmen.