Jerusalem (AFP) – Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akle was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin early Wednesday morning. The presenter and reporter who was injured in the incident blamed the Israeli forces.
The Israeli military initially raised the possibility that Abu Okla had been killed by stray Palestinian fire, saying that militants were present in the area as well, but army chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi later retracted that assertion, saying that “at this point, we cannot determine who was affected.” her fire and we regret her death.”
Abu Okla, 51, has been a respected and familiar face in the Middle East, known for her coverage of the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation over the past three decades. Her death reverberated across the region and set fire to social media. She worked as a reporter for Al Jazeera Arabic and was an American citizen. The State Department called her death an “affront to media freedom.”
She was fatally shot in the head early Wednesday on the outskirts of Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. Its producer, Palestinian journalist Ali Al-Samudi, was taken to hospital in a stable condition after being shot in the back.
Al Jazeera accused Israel of “deliberately targeting and killing our colleague.” Palestinian journalists who were with Abu Okla at the time said that they informed Israeli soldiers of their presence, and that they did not see armed men in the area.
The Israeli army said that its forces were attacked by heavy fire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they returned fire. The army said it was conducting an investigation and “looking into the possibility that Palestinian gunmen might hit the journalists.”
Kochavi, the army chief, said a special team had been set up to investigate.
Israel released a video of Palestinian gunmen shooting in an alley in Jenin refugee camp, and later said that the video was intended to bolster its claim that Palestinians were shooting in the area.
However, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem released its own video that casts doubt on these allegations.
B’Tselem video taken by one of its researchers as he walked between the location of the gunmen in the video and the location where Abu Akle was shot. I also provided the coordinates of the two sites. It appeared to be 300 meters (330 yards) apart, separated by walls and buildings.
Dror Sadot, a spokeswoman for the group, said its evidence shows “there is no escape” that the shootings shown in the video killed Abu Okla. “There is no clear shot,” she said.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett indicated that a gunman was heard in the video screaming that a soldier had been wounded. Because no Israelis were hurt, he said, this indicated that the gunmen shot a journalist instead.
Abu Okla was born in Jerusalem and started working for Al Jazeera in 1997. She wrote regularly from all over the Palestinian territories, making her a well-known face on television screens throughout the Arab world.
Smoudi, who has been working as its producer, told The Associated Press that they were among a group of seven journalists who went to cover the raid early Wednesday. He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly indicated they were journalists, and they passed close to Israeli forces so the soldiers would know they were there.
He said that a first shot missed them, then a second shot hit him, and a third killed Abu Okla. He said there were no militants or other civilians in the area – only reporters and the army. He said the army’s suggestion that the gunmen had shot them was a “complete lie”.
The Qatar-based network, whose relations with Israel have long been strained, cut its broadcasts to announce her death. In a statement broadcast by its channel, it called on the international community to “condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague.”
“We pledge to prosecute the perpetrators legally, no matter how hard they try to cover up their crime and bring them to justice,” Al Jazeera said.
It aired a separate tape showing Abu Aqla lying motionless on the side of a road next to a wall while another journalist was sitting nearby and a man shouted for an ambulance. There was gunfire in the background. Both reporters were wearing blue flak jackets with the word “PRESS” clearly marked on them.
The source of the shooting did not appear in the video.
Shatha Hunaisha, another Palestinian journalist among the journalists, said there were no clashes or shootings in the vicinity. She said that when he heard the shots, she and Abu Okla ran to a tree for cover.
“I got to the tree before Shireen. I fell to the ground,” Hanisha told Al Jazeera. Every time I reached out to Shirin, the soldiers shot at us.
Israel said it had proposed a joint investigation and autopsy with the Palestinian Authority, which rejected the offer.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters, condemned what it said was a “horrific crime” committed by Israeli forces.
Israel has carried out almost daily raids in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of bloody attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from Jenin. town and its camp in particular, It has long been known as a stronghold of militants.
Hundreds of Palestinians, including a number of masked gunmen, marched through Jenin in a funeral procession, carrying Abu Uqla’s body covered in a Palestinian flag and a blue pressure jacket. Her body was transferred to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, before burial in Jerusalem.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States is saddened and strongly condemned the killing of Abu Okla.
The investigation must be prompt and thorough, and those responsible must be held accountable. He said her death was an affront to media freedom everywhere.
Qatar, which funds the island, condemned the killing “in the strongest terms”.
The Arab League condemned the shooting and accused Israel, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi described the shooting as a “heinous crime.”
In a separate incident on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said an 18-year-old man named Thaer al-Yazuri was shot by Israeli forces near Ramallah. The army said Palestinians threw rocks at an army post near a West Bank settlement and that soldiers responded with rubber bullets.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, and the Palestinians want the area to form the main part of their future state. Approximately 3 million Palestinians live in the area under Israeli military rule. Israel has built more than 130 settlements throughout the West Bank that are home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers who hold full Israeli citizenship.
The Israelis have long criticized Al Jazeera’s coverage, but the authorities generally allow journalists to operate freely. Al Jazeera reporter post He was arrested for a while Last year during a demonstration in Jerusalem she was treated for a broken hand, which her employer blamed on harsh treatment by the police.
Relations between the Israeli forces and the media, especially Palestinian journalists, were strained. A number of Palestinian journalists were injured by rubber bullets or tear gas while covering demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Two Palestinian journalists were shot dead by Israeli forces while filming violent protests along the Gaza border in 2018.
In November of that year, Associated Press photographer Rashid Rashid was covering a demonstration near the Gaza border when He was shot in the left ankle, apparently with Israeli fire. Wearing protective clothing clearly identifying he was a journalist, he was standing with other journalists 600 meters (660 yards) from the border when he was hit. The army never acknowledged the shooting.
During last year’s war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, an Israeli air strike They destroyed the building in Gaza City It houses the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Residents were warned to evacuate and no one was hurt in the raid. Israel said Hamas was using the building as a command center but did not provide any evidence.
Akram reported from Hamilton, Canada. Associated Press writers Isabelle Debre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Ilan Ben-Zion and Areej Hazboun in Jerusalem contributed.