Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images
Veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed while reporting for Al Jazeera on an Israeli army raid in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the broadcaster reported on Wednesday. Al Jazeera Says Israeli Force Killed Abu Akleh; The Israeli government says it believes it may have been hit by Palestinian fire.
Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old US citizen, was covering a military raid on Jenin refugee camp ‘when she was hit in the face by a single bullet while wearing a press vest’, Al Jazeera said. . He said the TV correspondent was “murdered in cold blood” after being targeted by Israeli forces.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a statement saying, “Based on 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.”
Witnesses blame Israeli soldiers for journalist’s death
Al Jazeera producer Ali Samoudi was also shot while covering the raid. From his hospital bed, he told NPR that the TV crew arrived where Israeli soldiers were surrounding a Palestinian home in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
They walked past soldiers who allowed them to continue, he said. The journalists carried photographic equipment and wore blue vests clearly marked with the word “PRESS”.
After they passed, he said, three shots rang out.
Samoudi said the second shot him in the back and the third hit Abu Akleh in the head.
The producer disagreed with Israel’s assessment that Palestinian gunmen were likely responsible.
“There were no resistance fighters around us,” Samoudi said, according to a translation by Middle Eastern eye. “When there are Palestinian fighters shooting, we don’t go there.”
Another witness, Palestinian journalist Shatha Hanaysha, said the journalists were trapped when Abu Akleh was shot. Her colleague’s death was an assassination, she said.
“We stood together collectively as journalists and then we started moving. We were shocked by the live ammunition fired at us,” she told Al Jazeera. “We reached an area that did not allow us to retreat.”
The shots came from snipers, she said.
“Whoever killed Shireen intended to kill her because he fired the bullet at an area of her body that was unprotected,” Hanaysha added.
Israeli army says it believes Palestinian gunfire killed Abu Akleh
The Israeli army said it was “investigating the event and examining the possibility that journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen”.
The Israel Defense Forces said the raid was set up “to apprehend suspected terrorists” in the Jenin camp. He acknowledges that his soldiers opened fire, but he said it only happened after “dozens of Palestinian gunmen fired and threw explosive devices at the soldiers”.
When the soldiers opened fire, he added, they fired “in the direction of the gunmen and the shots were identified”.
Abu Akleh’s murder is widely condemned
The Foreign Press Association in Israel and the Palestinian Territories says it is “appalled and deeply shocked” by Abu Akleh’s murder. He also said the investigation into his death should be immediate and transparent.
“His death is a huge loss for journalism, and the FPA sends its deepest condolences to Al Jazeera and his family,” the association said. (Editor’s note: NPR is a member of the organization.)
United States Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides encouraged a “thorough investigation into the circumstances” of the journalist’s death.