A journalist for Al Jazeera was shot dead while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Israel and the Palestinians are blaming each other for the death of well-known Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh. She was hit by a bullet in the head.*
She was with a small group of journalists, all wearing protective vests bearing the word PRESS and helmets, including her producer who was also wounded. Al Jazeera blamed Israel for the incident.
“For a quarter of a century, Shireen Abu Aqleh put herself in harm’s way to cover wars, attacks and aggressions of the Israeli occupation against Palestinians,” the Qatar-based broadcaster said. “We condemn the heinous crime and place the responsibility on the Israeli government and its occupation forces.”
Abu Aqleh (51) was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on-camera from across the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to attend Thursday's funeral in Ramallah, following a ceremony that will be held at the muqataa Palestinian Authority headquarters, said that Israel bore exclusive responsibility for what he described as Abu Aqleh's execution. He said the incident was reflective of Israel's day-to-day policies, which "targets journalists in an attempt to erase the truth". Hamas condemned the death and said it considers it "an assassination and premeditated murder".
However, the Israeli narrative was different. “It is highly likely that it was armed Palestinians who fired indiscriminately at the Israeli forces that caused Abu Aqleh’s regrettable death,” said prime minister Naftali Bennett.
He added that Palestinians were documented on social media boasting about hitting a soldier with their gunfire, who supposedly was lying on the ground as a result, but Mr Bennett said that no soldiers had been injured.
Israel called on the Palestinians to conduct a joint pathological inquiry, but the Palestinians refused.
Mr Bennett vowed that the Israeli security forces would continue to operate against the “terrorists in their bases so as to break the murderous wave of terrorism and to restore security to Israeli citizens”.
Wednesday’s raid followed a wave of attacks in recent weeks by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians across Israel and in the West Bank that has left 17 Israelis and two Ukrainians dead. At least 26 Palestinians have also been killed – including suspected gunmen killed during daily military incursions by Israeli troops into West Bank militant strongholds. In recent years the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank, has failed to exert its control over the Jenin area, and particularly the sprawling Jenin refugee camp, resulting in a state of near anarchy where armed gunmen effectively control the streets. Some have links to militant groups such as the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the various offshoots of Fatah but criminal elements are also active.
Both the European Union and Washington called for a thorough investigation to be conducted into the circumstances of Abu Aqleh’s death and Israeli officials said they are sharing the results of their ongoing investigation with the Americans.
On Twitter, US state department spokesman Ned Price said her death was an affront to media freedom everywhere. – Additional reporting: AP/Reuters
*This article was amended on Wednesday, June 1st, 2022, to remove a line that stated Shireen Abu Akleh was killed “during a fierce exchange of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen”. The claim in the immediate aftermath of the incident that an exchange of gunfire took place has not been proven. Witnesses and video imagery suggest there was no such exchange at the time of her death.