Shireen Abu Akleh: Al Jazeera journalist shot dead while covering Israeli military operation in the West Bank

The Palestinian Health Ministry said she was hit in the head by live ammunition and confirmed her death a short time later. Akleh producer Ali Al-Samudi was also shot dead and is in stable condition, the ministry said.

The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear.

Al Jazeera accused Israeli security forces of deliberately targeting and killing Abu Akleh and called on the international community to condemn and hold Israel accountable.

Al-Samudi said later Wednesday that there were no Palestinian gunmen in the area at the time. “The Israeli army shot at us,” Al-Samudi said. “There was no Palestinian gunman there.”

The Israel Defense Forces said their security forces operated in the area “to arrest suspects of terrorist activity,” and that Palestinian suspects and Israeli forces were firing at the time.

“As part of the activity in the Jenin refugee camp, suspects fired full force at the forces and threw explosives. The forces returned fire. Shots were detected,” the IDF said. “The possibility that journalists were hit, possibly by Palestinian fire, is being investigated. The event is under review.”

The Israeli army has stepped up operations in the West Bank after a series of attacks targeting Israelis left 18 people dead. Several of the attackers were from the Jenin region.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that it “appears likely” that armed Palestinians were responsible for Abu Akleh’s death.

“According to the information we have gathered, it seems likely that armed Palestinians – who were firing indiscriminately at the time – were responsible for the journalist’s unfortunate death,” the prime minister said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister’s office released a video showing people running through the Jenin refugee camp, shouting that a soldier had been hit. CNN has not been able to independently verify that the video is related to Abu Akleh’s death. “No IDF soldiers were injured, raising the possibility that Palestinian terrorists shot the journalist,” Bennett said.

Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest, with “press” written clearly on it, when she was shot.

A journalist covering the Israeli operation in Jenin on Wednesday alongside the slain Al Jazeera correspondent told CNN that Abu Akleh and other journalists made themselves known to Israeli forces before they were shot.

“I saw Shireen on the ground,” said journalist Mujahed al-Saadi. “We tried to save Shireen and we couldn’t.”

“The occupation targeted Shireen while she was wearing a helmet, the wound was under her ear,” he added. “Shireen fell while carrying press (equipment) and even with that the people who tried to save her were shot, the targeting was clear against Shireen and against us as journalist teams.”

“Very sad to hear of the passing of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh of @AJArabic @AJEnglish,” US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said. “I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of his death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.”

Nides is married to CNN executive Virginia Moseley, who serves as Senior Vice President of News Gathering in the United States.

Mourners, including journalists, react next to the body of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

In response to the shooting, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Twitter that his government had offered to conduct a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation, adding: “Journalists must be protected in conflict areas and we have all the responsibility to discover the truth.

Tributes began to pour in for Abu Akleh as news of his death spread.

Abu Akleh’s colleague, Nida Ibrahim, said she was a “highly respected journalist” who had worked with Al Jazeera since the start of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000, according to the network.

“As you can imagine, it’s a shock to the journalists who worked with her,” Ibrahim said in tears.

Abu Akleh was born and raised in Jerusalem and came from a Christian family, according to Bir Zeit University, where she was a teacher. She was 51, according to the university.

“She first studied architecture at the University of Science and Technology in Jordan, then switched to majoring in print journalism and received a bachelor’s degree from Yarmouk University in Jordan,” according to her academic biography.

She worked with UNRWA, Voice of Palestine Radio, Amman Satellite Channel, Miftah Foundation and Monte Carlo Radio before joining Al Jazeera.

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