According to the Palestinian health ministry, Israeli forces killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank.
Abu Akleh, a longtime Al Jazeera Arabic TV correspondent, was killed on Wednesday while covering Israeli army raids in Jenin, in the northern occupied West Bank.
According to the ministry and Al Jazeera journalists, she was rushed to a hospital in Jenin in critical condition and later declared dead at 7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m. GMT).
When Abu Akleh was killed, she was wearing a press vest and was standing with other journalists.
Another Al Jazeera journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was shot in the back at the scene. He is now in good health.
Abu Akleh was shot in the head, according to the head of the medicine department at al-Najah University in Nablus. He stated that her body was transferred for an autopsy due to a public prosecution order.
Abu Akleh’s body was carried out of the university draped in a Palestinian flag, and she will be taken to Ramallah’s Istishari Hospital.
Her funeral will be held at the Palestinian presidency headquarters in Ramallah tomorrow morning.
Al-Samoudi and other journalists present at the scene said there were no Palestinian fighters present when the journalists were shot, directly contradicting an Israeli statement that mentioned the possibility of Palestinian fire.
“We were about to film the Israeli army operation when they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming,” al-Samoudi explained.
“The first bullet struck me, and the second struck Shireen… There was no Palestinian military resistance present.”
Local journalist Shatha Hanaysha, who was standing next to Abu Akleh when she was shot, also told Al Jazeera that there had been no clashes between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army. She claimed that the journalists had been specifically targeted.
“We were four journalists, all wearing vests and helmets,” Hanaysha explained. “Even after she collapsed, the [Israeli] occupation army did not stop firing.” Because of the shots, I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her. The army insisted on shooting to kill.”
The circumstances surrounding Abu Akleh’s death are still unknown, but videos of the incident show that she was shot in the head, according to Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim.
“For the time being, we only know that her death has been announced by the Palestinian health ministry.” Shireen Abu Akleh was covering events unfolding in Jenin, specifically an Israeli raid on the city, which is located north of the occupied West Bank, when she was hit in the head,” Ibrahim said from Ramallah, the Palestinian capital.
Abu Akleh’s last email to the network was sent at 6:13 a.m. to Al Jazeera’s Ramallah bureau, in which she wrote: “Occupation forces storm Jenin and besiege a house in the Jabriyat neighborhood.” On my way there, I’ll let you know as soon as the picture becomes clear.”
Separately, the Palestinian health ministry reported on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank that an 18-year-old Palestinian, Thaer Mislet-Yazouri, was shot by Israeli forces in the town of el-Bireh, near the illegal settlement of Psagot.
Shock and bereavement
Abu Akleh, a dual Palestinian-American citizen, was one of Al Jazeera’s first field correspondents, having joined the network in 1997.
As the news spread quickly, dozens of colleagues, fellow journalists, friends, and Palestinian figures, including Palestinian politicians Hanan Ashrawi and Khalida Jarrar, poured into the Al Jazeera offices in downtown Ramallah.
According to Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar, Abu Akleh was the Palestinian people’s voice who was killed by “the monstrosity of Israeli colonialism and occupation.”
“Shireen was always my voice from the prison cells,” Jarrar told Al Jazeera, adding that Shireen was the first person she saw at her court hearings a month into her last detention by Israel.
“Shireen was our spokesperson. It’s incredible. It’s a crime, there’s no doubt about it – intentional and direct targeting. She had been singled out. “It’s obvious,” Jarrar said.
Mohammad Hawwash, a former colleague of Abu Akleh’s who knew her for over 25 years, described her as a “real journalist.”
“Shereen was a professional and unbiased journalist who conveyed the reality and events as they are,” said Hawwash, 70.
The Israeli military claimed that its soldiers were attacked with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they responded by firing back. It went on to say that it was “investigating the incident.”
In a statement, the Palestinian presidency condemned the killing and blamed it on the Israeli occupation.
Ibrahim Melhem, a Palestinian Authority (PA) government spokesperson, called it a “comprehensive crime committed against a well-known journalist.”
“The killing was premeditated… “There will be an autopsy performed by Palestinian medics, followed by a report detailing all aspects of the killing,” Melhem told Al Jazeera. “However, all of the witnesses present at the scene of the crime confirm that an Israeli sniper committed the crime on purpose.”
The Israeli foreign minister, Yair Lapid, stated that Tel Aviv is offering a “joint pathological investigation” into Abu Akleh’s “sad death.” He went on to say that “journalists must be protected in conflict zones.”
During an offensive a year ago, Israeli forces bombed Al Jazeera’s offices in the Gaza Strip, which also housed the Associated Press, and Palestinian and international journalists say they have been regularly targeted by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
Many Palestinians and people around the world took to social media to express their shock and grief.
“This morning, Israeli occupation forces assassinated our beloved journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering their brutality in Jenin.” Shireen was a prominent Palestinian journalist and a close friend,” the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot, wrote.
Those who knew her described her as courageous, kind, and a strong advocate for Palestinians.
“Shireen was a brave, kind, and high integrity journalist who I and millions of Palestinians grew up watching,” wrote Fadi Quran, a campaign group activist.
“I am appalled to learn of Israel’s assassination of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin! “For over two decades, Shireen has courageously covered Israel’s aggression in Palestine,” wrote Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian-American activist and lawyer.
“In disbelief,” wrote Palestinian activist Salem Barahmeh. “We grew up listening to her report on the Second Intifada. She was our spokesperson. Rest in peace and power. Another tragedy on another day.”
Al Jazeera’s managing director, Giles Trendle, said the network was “shocked and saddened” by Shireen Abu Akleh’s death.
“We have a history throughout the world, but especially in this region, where we have had tragedies,” he said, calling for an open investigation into Abu Akleh’s death.
“As journalists, we keep going. Our mission is to keep going. “We will not be silenced,” Trendle declared. “Our mission is to keep informing the world about what is going on.” That is more important than ever.”
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