Five things to know about the killing of Al Jazeera’s Abu Akleh

Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist, was shot dead while reporting on an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.

Shireen Abu Akleh
The Al Jazeera reporter was shot dead during a raid in Jenin by Israeli forces [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been shot and killed in the occupied West Bank while doing her job.

The veteran reporter was hit by a live bullet on Wednesday as she was covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin.

She was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead. A second Al Jazeera journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was also shot in the back and is in stable condition in hospital.

Here are five things you should know about her tragic death.

What do eyewitnesses say?

People who were present at the scene when Abu Akleh was killed have told Al Jazeera that she was shot in the head by Israeli forces who targeted a group of reporters.

Eyewitness and fellow journalist Shatha Hanaysha said that the Al Jazeera journalist was with other reporters who were shocked when they came under fire from live ammunition as they were moving on foot in Jenin.

Hanaysha said the Israeli forces who opened fire could clearly see that they were journalists.

“The one that killed Shireen was intended to kill her because he shot the bullet at an area of her body that was not protected,” Hanaysha said, referring to the protective clothing that the Al Jazeera journalist was wearing.

“If they were not really willing to kill some of us, they could have started shooting before our arrival in this narrow area. I see this as a clear assassination of journalists,” she said.

“We reached an area that did not allow us to withdraw … just facing the snipers,” she told Al Jazeera.

Mujahed al-Saadi, another journalist who witnessed the killing, said the gunfire targeting the journalists continued even after it was made clear to the Israeli army that they were shooting at members of the press.

“Within seconds, there was the first shot,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I told them [journalist colleagues] that we are being targeted, we are being shot at. I turned around and found Shireen on the ground,” he said.

“The shooting continued for more than three minutes. Ali [another journalist] was injured; he was able to cross the street and get to a point of safety,” he said.

“I took refuge under a staircase in the cement factory and the shooting continued … and we could not provide first aid to Shireen.”

What do Palestinians and Israelis say?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israeli forces of the deliberate killing of the Al Jazeera journalist, saying he held Israel fully responsible for the death of Abu Akleh.

Abbas described the incident as a blatant, cold-blooded murder by the Israeli army.

Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar said that Abu Akleh was the voice of the Palestinians and she was killed by “the monstrosity of Israeli colonialism and occupation”.

“Shireen was always my voice from the prison cells,” she said, adding that a month into her last detention, Shireen was the first person she saw at her court hearings.

“Shireen was our voice. It is unbelievable. It is a crime, it is all clear – intentional and direct targeting.”

The Israeli army initially raised the possibility that the veteran Al Jazeera journalist might have been killed by Palestinian gunfire, saying armed fighters were also present in the area at the time the journalist was shot.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it was “likely” that Palestinian gunfire killed the Al Jazeera reporter.

“According to the information we’ve gathered, it appears likely that armed Palestinians – who were indiscriminately firing at the time – were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist,” Bennett said in a statement.

Later on Wednesday, Israel’s military chief appeared to walk back assertions that Abu Akleh may have been killed by stray bullets fired by Palestinian fighters. Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi said it was unclear who fired the shot that killed the journalist.

“At this stage, we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death,” he said, according to news reports.

Israel’s defence minister Benny Gantz was also struck are more cautious note: “We are trying to figure out exactly what happened,” he said.

“I don’t have final conclusions.”

What do rights groups say?

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, said the organisation was looking into the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist and described Israeli investigations of such killings “as whitewash mechanisms”.

“That is the assessment that’s been reached by human rights organisations including Israeli’s premier human rights organisation B’Tselem. Human Rights Watch has a similar diagnosis,” he said, speaking to Al Jazeera.

“The reality is there is no accountability for those sorts of abuses when it comes to actions by the Israeli authorities”.

The executive director of the International Press Institute, Barbara Trionfi, told Al Jazeera that the killing comes at a time of increased attacks against journalists in the West Bank and Gaza.

These attacks target Palestinian journalists in particular, she said.

Trionfi called for an independent investigation to determine “whether Shireen was targeted”, but added that such a probe would be “very hard to get there” when Israeli authorities are involved.

Why was Israel raiding Jenin?

Tensions have run high for weeks in Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces have frequently raided the city of Jenin, an important flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has seen weeks of unrest amid repeated incursions by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound – Islam’s third holiest site – the wounding and killing of Palestinians, and deadly attacks in Israel by Palestinians.

Suspects accused of involvement in recent killings of Israelis were reported to be from Jenin, which has led to the city becoming the main target of Israeli arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.

The raids have sparked frequent clashes and brought to at least 42 the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or armed civilians so far this year. Eighteen Israelis, including three police officers and a security guard, have been killed in attacks in Israel and the occupied West Bank since March.

What might happen next?

Abu Akleh was a veteran journalist and well-known to the Palestinian people. Her killing will likely further increase tensions in the West Bank and Israel.

Rights groups, lawyers and Palestinian authorities say they do not expect a credible investigation into the killing by Israel, which has a track record of not thoroughly investigating crimes committed by the Israeli army.

How much international pressure will be put on Israel, particularly by the United States, for the killing of Abu Akleh is yet to be seen.

Source: Al Jazeera