Veteran Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who worked for Qatar-based Arabic Al Jazeera network was shot and killed in the morning of 11 May, while covering a raid by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on the Palestinian West Bank town of Jenin.
In a statement, Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority accused Israeli forces of killing her, while Israel attributed her death to Palestinian gunmen, saying she was caught in the crossfire of clashes.
Violence and killings have escalated in recent months between Israeli forces and gunmen in Palestine, following a spate of killings in Israeli towns that the IDF blamed on militants operating from Jenin. According to Amnesty International, 34 Palestinians were killed in March and April of this year, while 18 people were killed in Israeli cities in attacks in recent weeks.
Israel said it had proposed a joint investigation and autopsy with the Palestinian Authority into the death of Abu Akleh. The Palestinian side said it would not cooperate with any investigation conducted by Israel, and refused to share the autopsy reports or fragments of a bullet recovered from the body.
Other stakeholders in the peace process in Palestine, including the European Union and the United States, have demanded an independent inquiry into the incident.
“It is essential that a thorough and independent investigation clarifies all the circumstances of these incidents as soon as possible and that those responsible are brought to justice,” said foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano.
US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides said that he encouraged “a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Abu Akleh’s death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “those responsible must be held accountable.”
World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum called for a thorough investigation by both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to determine the cause of this tragic death. “Those responsible must be held to account for this egregious violation of international law, if indeed it is determined that Shireen Abu Akleh was deliberately targeted for her work as a journalist.”
Born on 3 January 1971 in Jerusalem to a Christian family from Bethlehem, Shireen Abu Akleh grew up in Jerusalem. Following her secondary education at the Rosary Sisters School in Beit Hanina in Jerusalem, she headed to the University of Science and Technology in Jordan to initially study architecture, before deciding to switch to journalism.
She obtained a BA in Journalism and Media from the Yarmouk University of Jordan, specializing in written journalism, before returning to the Palestinian territories where she worked in various media organizations, before joining Al Jazeera in 1997. The 51-year-old Abu Akleh held an American citizenship through relatives on her mother’s side who lived in New Jersey.
For over the past two decades, she has been covering human rights abuses from across the Palestinian territories and became a household name across the Arab world. She was also a dedicated mentor and set many aspiring female journalists on their paths in journalism. Her closing lines in every report “Shireen Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera, Ramallah, Palestine,” was a byline for many young girls emulating her.
For many people in the Arab world and for the Palestinian diaspora around the world, she was often the voice of Palestine. Her narrative of violence and senseless killings taking place in her native Palestine, compelled Arab audiences everywhere, “to remember, to contend with, and to take seriously what it means to disengage from the question of Palestine,” said Mezna Qato, a historian at the University of Cambridge on hearing news of her death. He added, “Now she’s been silenced in this utterly violent way that echoes some of her own reporting.”
A Book of Condolence was opened at the Palestinian Embassy in Kuwait, with diplomats from various countries arriving to express their grief and record their condolences.