Thousands of Palestinians tonight chanted in support of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead while covering a raid in Israel’s West Bank on Wednesday morning.
Her was body carried through the city of Ramallah, with thousands chanting ‘thank you, dear Shireen’, as calls mounted for an independent investigation into the killing of the veteran journalist.
Pictures showed a huge crowd gathered in the city as Abu Akleh’s body, draped in a Palestinian flag’, was carried ahead of a full state memorial for her Palestinian presidential compound that is organised for tomorrow.
Abu Akleh, 51, who was a Christian and well-known Palestinian television personality with American citizenship, was killed during a raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin early Wednesday.
Amid conflicting reports, Al Jazeera put the blame for her death at the feet of Israel’s security force, the IDF. The IDF, meanwhile, blamed Palestinian gunfire.
The Qatar-based broadcaster said she was shot ‘deliberately’ and ‘in cold blood’ by Israeli troops while wearing a press vest and helmet. Al Jazeera said in a statement that ‘the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine’.
In a statement on its channel, it called on the international community to ‘condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and assassinating our colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh.’
Meanwhile, the IDF said it is ‘investigating the event and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.’ ‘She may have been shot by Palestinians,’ IDF spokesperson Ran Kochav said. ‘She was very close to them. But if soldiers were responsible, we will have to apologise if a mistake was made.’
Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz appeared to distance himself from earlier remarks by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who had said it was ‘likely’ that Abu Akleh was killed by stray Palestinian gunfire.
‘Our initial findings from the investigation cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen and cannot exclude any option under this operational chaos’, Gantz said, briefing reporters late on Wednesday.
He said Palestinian gunmen in Jenin were firing from ‘multiple directions. We are not certain how she was killed,’ Gantz added, adding that Abu Akleh’s death was a ‘a serious loss.’
Another Palestinian journalist, Ali Al Samoudi, working for the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper, was wounded but in stable condition, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Samudi later said no Palestinian fighters were nearby, stressing that otherwise ‘we would not have gone into the area’.
Thousands of Palestinians tonight chanted in support of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead while covering a raid in the West Bank on Wednesday. Her was body carried through the city of Ramallah (pictured)
Palestinians carry the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in an Israeli raid, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank May 11, 2022
Palestinians carry the flag-draped body of veteran Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as it is carried toward the offices of the news channel in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 11, 2022
Mourners carry the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by gunfire during an Israeli raid, during her funeral in West Bank city of Jenin on May 11, 2022
Palestinians carry the body of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in the West Bank city of Nablus
Palestinian journalists protest the death of veteran Al-Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, at the the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 11 May 2022
The body of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, lies on the ground while her colleague, Shatha Hanaysheh, covers her mouth in shock as firing continues
Well-known Palestinian television personality Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, (pictured) from Jerusalem, was killed during a raid on the occupied West Bank town of Jenin early Wednesday
A young man from the area braves what seems to be continual sniper fire to attend to Abu Akleh’s body
The European Union urged an ‘independent’ investigation while the United States’ envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, demanded the killing be ‘transparently investigated’, calls also made by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
Israel has offered to participate in a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, and Gantz urged the PA to provide the army with the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.
Gantz told reporters that Israel was seeking the findings of the Palestinian autopsy, conducted in Nablus earlier Wednesday.
There was no indication on whether Palestinian officials were prepared to cooperate with Israel in an investigation.
Rayyan Ali, a forensic pathologist at Al Najah University in Nablus where the autopsy was conducted, told reporters ‘it is not possible to make any statement about who bears responsibility,’ because details of the weapon and ammunition used had not been fully examined by experts.
Abu Akleh, who joined Al Jazeera in 1997 and whose coverage of the conflict was revered across Palestinian society, will receive a full state memorial at the Palestinian presidential compound in Ramallah on Thursday.
Her was body carried through the city on Wednesday evening, with thousands chanting ‘thank you, dear Shireen.’
The Israeli army has stepped up operations in Jenin, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in recent weeks. Several of the suspects blamed for deadly attacks on Israelis were from the area.
Witnesses in Jenin said that the Israeli army had been targeting the home of an Islamist operative, with an apartment’s heavy metal door blown off its hinges.
Majid Awais, a witness, told AFP that Abu Akleh ‘turned in panic’ when she saw her colleague Samudi was shot, and that she was struck by the fatal bullet moments later.
An AFP photographer reported that Israeli forces were firing in the area, and that he then saw Abu Akleh’s body lying on the ground, with no Palestinian gunmen visible at the time.
The Qatar-based broadcaster blamed Israeli forces, saying Abu Akleh was shot ‘deliberately’ and ‘in cold blood’ by Israeli troops while wearing a press vest and helmet
A sand sculpture reads ‘Shireen Abu Akleh’, for the Al Jazeera reporter who was killed in an Israeli raid in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on a beach in Gaza City May 11, 2022
A woman lights a candle in front of a poster depicting veteran Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead while covering an Israeli army raid in Jenin, at the the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank biblical city of Bethlehem
Palestinian journalists protest against the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in front of the office of Al-Jazeera news in Gaza City, 11 May 2022
Women light candles in memory of veteran Al-Jazeera Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, at the the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 11 May 2022
In video footage of the incident, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word ‘PRESS.’ She is shown lying prone on the ground as gunfire continues.
Another journalist is shown taking cover against a wall, clearly distressed. A man, who appears to be a citizen wearing a white T-shirt and jeans, takes the second journalist to safety and attempts to check on Abu Akleh.
Journalist Mujahed Al-Saadi, who accompanied Abu Akleh to cover the Jenin raid, told Reuters that they were being ‘targeted’ by the Israeli army after having identified themselves as press.
‘I turned and found Shireen on the ground in the first few seconds. I found Shatha [Hanaysheh] shielding herself by a tree and screaming with the shooting, and we were telling each other we were being shot at,’ he said.
‘The shooting continued for more than 3 minutes on the teams that were there, Ali was injured, he was able to cross the street and get to a point of safety, and the shooting continued.
‘The last person that the sniper saw was taking refuge under a tree, our colleague Shatha Hanaysheh, the shooting towards her continued while she was standing under the tree, and we could not provide first aid to Shireen.
‘The boys came to us, the ones that were in the street, who were trying to pull Shireen out, were also shot at, whenever any one moved forward they were shot at.’
Journalists escort the body of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, who was shot dead by Israeli troops as she covered a raid on the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp this morning
Journalists mourn over the body of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh. In video footage of the incident, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word ‘PRESS’
A medical worker covers the body of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Al Jazeera put the blame for her death at the feet of Israeli security forces, who said it is ‘investigating the event and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen’
The Israeli army confirmed that its forces had carried out an operation in a Jenin refugee camp on Wednesday morning, in a region known to be a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups in the northern West Bank.
It firmly denied, however, that it had deliberately targeted journalists.
‘The (army) of course does not aim at journalists,’ a military official told AFP. ‘There is an ongoing inquiry into this event. We offered and want to conduct a joint investigation with the Palestinians.’
The army said that during its operation in the camp, ‘massive fire was shot toward Israeli forces by tens of armed Palestinian gunmen’.
People in the camp ‘also hurled explosive devices toward the soldiers, endangering their lives. The soldiers responded with fire toward the sources of the fire and explosive devices. Hits were identified.’
The Israeli Foreign Ministry put out a short video on Twitter of IDF soldiers firing and a text over reading: ‘Palestinian terrorists, firing indiscriminately, are likely to have hit Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla’.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said it had proposed to the Palestinian Authority a joint pathological investigation into the reporter’s death.
‘Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,’ he tweeted.
Abu Akleh’s death came nearly a year after an Israeli air strike destroyed a Gaza building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and news agency AP.
Tensions have risen in recent months as Israel has grappled with a wave of attacks which has killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.
A total of 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs have died during the same period, according to an AFP tally, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.
In the latest unrest targeting Israeli forces, a West Bank Palestinian attempted to stab a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City late Wednesday.
Officers opened fire, leaving the attacker with serious injuries, police said.
The latest Palestinian death was an 18-year-old killed by Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah on Wednesday. The army said its forces had used rubber bullets to suppress unrest.
Shireen Abu Akleh’s press colleague, Shatha Hanaysheh, is consoled by another colleague after the raid on a refugee camp in Jenin, in the north West Bank
Mourners and masked armed men carry the body of veteran Al Jazeera Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, shot and killed this morning during an Israeli raid in Jenin
Shireen Abu Aqleh was well known across Palestine and the occupied territories, having joined Al Jazeera in 1997 and appeared on television regularly reported from across the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters, condemned what it said was a ‘shocking crime’ committed by Israeli forces.
Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al-Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on-camera from across the Palestinian territories.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from in and around Jenin.
The town, and particularly its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant bastion.
Israelis have long been critical of Al-Jazeera’s coverage, but authorities generally allow its journalists to operate freely.
Another Al-Jazeera reporter, Givara Budeiri, was briefly detained last year during a protest in Jerusalem and treated for a broken hand, which her employer blamed on rough treatment by police.
Relations between Israeli forces and the media, especially Palestinian journalists, is strained.
A number of Palestinian reporters have been wounded by rubber-coated bullets or tear gas while covering demonstrations in the West Bank.
A Palestinian journalist in Gaza was shot and killed by Israeli forces while filming violent protests along the Gaza frontier in 2018.
Another journalist working for a local Gaza radio station, who was shot on the same day at Gaza frontier, died a week later
In November 2018, Associated Press reporter Rashed Rashid was covering a protest near the Gaza frontier when he was shot in the left ankle, apparently by Israeli fire.
Rashid was wearing protective gear that clearly identified him as a journalist, and was standing with a crowd of other journalists some 600 meters (660 yards) away from the Israeli border when he was hit. The military has never acknowledged the shooting.
During last year’s war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the building in Gaza City housing the offices of The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera.
Residents were warned to evacuate and no one was hurt in the strike. Israel said Hamas was using the building as a command center but has provided no evidence.