On Wednesday, an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank killed a renowned Palestinian-American Al Jazeera correspondent, and Israel stated it will initiate an investigation to find out who killed her.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist, was wearing a press vest that plainly stated “Press” while reporting in Jenin, according to the Qatar-based website.
She was reporting on the Israeli military’s newest arrest operation in the wake of fatal Arab attacks in Israel.
The death of a renowned reporter who had been covering Palestinian matters and the Middle East for more than two decades at a major news channel seen by millions in the Arab world looked certain to add fire to an already raging war.
Gunfire can be heard in the first few seconds of an Al Jazeera film shot in the moments leading up to Abu Akleh’s death, before a guy cries “Shireen! Shireen! Ambulance!”
The camera then pans around the corner to reveal Abu Akleh sprawled on the ground, face forward. Other journalists can be seen fleeing for safety.
Ali Samoodi, another Palestinian journalist on the site, was also injured.
Abu Akleh’s assassination was described by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as “blatant, cold-blooded murder” by the Israeli military, which reported dozens of Palestinian gunmen approached troops in Jenin who were apprehending a Hamas fighter.
After an autopsy in the West Bank, a Palestinian medical examiner did not echo the charge, failing to remark on who might have fired the shell.
Before Israel performed a “thorough inquiry” into the events, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated Abbas was making unsubstantiated charges.
According to Bennett, Palestinians “shooting indiscriminately” were likely responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing. Later, however, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was more cautious.
“Our initial findings from the investigation so far cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen, and I cannot exclude any option under the operational chaos on the ground,” Gantz told reporters.
The White House strongly condemned the killing and called for an investigation into her death.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said her death was an affront to media freedom around the world on Twitter.
“The Israelis have the resources and ability to conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation,” Price said during a press conference.
During the Jenin operation, Israeli forces “suddenly opened fire” on Abu Akleh and Samoodi, according to Samoodi. He refuted Israeli military claims that gunmen were there when the two journalists were killed.
In attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have largely targeted civilians, Palestinians and members of Israel’s Arab minority have killed 18 people, including three police officers and a security guard, since March.
Some of the attackers hail from Jenin. The city has been a frequent target of Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank, which have frequently resulted in conflicts and brought the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or armed civilians to at least 42 since the beginning of the year.
Armed militants, lone assailants, and innocent bystanders are among those killed.
Visits by Jewish pilgrims to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest site and Judaism’s most sacred shrine, have inflamed Palestinian fury in recent weeks.
Samoodi, who was treated for his wounds in a Jenin hospital, told reporters: “They (Israeli soldiers) did not ask us to leave or to come to a halt (filming). They opened fire on us. One bullet struck me, while another struck Shireen. They brutally murdered her.”
Israeli troops would never intentionally kill a non-combatant, according to an Israeli military spokeswoman who briefed foreign journalists and described Abu Akleh’s death as unfortunate. During the raid, he stated there were three direct fire exchanges with Palestinian gunmen.
World leaders, human rights activists, and press freedom organizations have unanimously condemned the murder and demanded an investigation.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, recalls being interviewed by the “highly respected” Abu Akleh late last year and described her murder as “horrifying.”
Abu Akleh’s coworkers were seen standing around her body, which was draped in the Palestinian flag with a press jacket on top, as a priest performed a prayer in a Reuters video.
Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of American operations in the Middle East, expressed his condolences to Abu Akleh, her family, and her Al Jazeera colleagues.
“Every day, reporters like Shireen display remarkable courage around the world,” Kurilla said during a visit to the region.