Israel's murder of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in occupied Jenin is part of an escalation of violence against Palestinians and particularly on journalists, writes Sara Sammak
Palestinians worldwide grieved on Wednesday at the news that veteran Palestinian journalist and Al Jazeera correspondent, Shireen Abu Akleh, was fatally shot in the head by Israeli forces while reporting on an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp in occupied West Bank.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said that Abu Akleh, who has worked for Al Jazeera in Ramallah since 1997, was “assassinated in cold blood” and called on the international community to hold Israeli forces responsible.
Another Palestininian Journalist, Ali al-Sammoudi, was also injured at the scene after being shot in the back but remained in a stable condition. He was witness to the killing, and stated:
“We were on our way to cover an Israeli army raid. All of a sudden, the Israeli forces opened gunfire at us. They didn’t ask us to leave, they didn’t ask us to stop. The bullet first hit me, the second bullet hit Shireen. They killed her in cold blood. They are killers committed to killing Palestinians. There were no Palestinian resistance fighters in the area, we wouldn’t have been there if there had been any resistance fighters in the area.”
"The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen. They killed her in cold blood."— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 11, 2022
Al Jazeera journalist Ali al-Samoudi who was next to Shireen recounts the moment she was killed by Israeli occupation forces.
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Fellow journalist and eyewitness Shatha Hanaysha said the Israeli forces could clearly see they were journalists, and what happened was a deliberate attempt to kill them.
Graphic videos are circulating showing moments after the incident. Videos show fellow media workers trying to help Abu Akleh after she was shot and fell to the ground, but Israeli forces continued to shoot at them as they tried to help her. It is clear to see that the journalists were wearing press vests and helmets.
What has happened highlights the vast majority of crimes Israel commits against media workers, especially if they are Palestinian. At least 50 Palestinian journalists have been killed since 2000.
The Al Jazeera journalist was loved by her community and colleagues. Her colleague and friend, Dalia Hatuqa, said,
“She was there in every Palestinian town, village, refugee camp. Everybody knew her name, everybody welcomed her. She wanted to do stories nobody else wanted to do. She gave a voice to a lot of people who we otherwise wouldn’t have heard from.”
Abu Akleh also held an American-Palestinian dual citizenship, and US Ambassador to the UN, Thomas-Greenfield, has called for a “transparent investigation”, as has the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
British MPs have also expressed concerns and condemned the incident. Jeremy Corbyn said, “This appalling killing must be investigated and justice sought for her family”. Zarah Sultana said, “She was wearing a helmet & body armour clearly marked ‘PRESS’. Let’s call it what it is: a war crime”.
Amnesty International, who have recently declared Israel an apartheid state, have said the surge in unlawful killings highlights urgent need to end Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians.
Shireen Abu Akleh will be remembered for her years of incredible work at Al Jazeera, a face known all around the Middle East and the world. She will be remembered for her bravery. She put her life on the line not just for her job, but for Palestine.
The brutal murder of Abu Akleh is the latest incident in Israel’s escalation of violence against Palestinians in recent months. This weekend, Palestinians and supporters around the world will mark the anniversary of the Nakba. It is important that we highlight the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and show our solidarity with them.
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Sara Sammak is a British Palestinian activist who works with the Stop the War Coalition and writes for Counterfire