An Al Jazeera journalist was shot dead early Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. The broadcaster and a reporter wounded in the incident blamed Israeli forces, while Israel said there was evidence the two were hit by Palestinian gunfire.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Palestinian reporter for the channel’s Arabic-language channel, who is also a US citizen, was shot and died shortly thereafter. Ali Samoudi, another Palestinian journalist, was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in the back.
The Qatar-based network suspended its broadcast to announce her death. In a statement posted on her channel, she called on the international community to “condemn and hold accountable the Israeli occupying forces for deliberately attacking and killing our colleague.”
“We are committed to legally prosecuting the perpetrators, no matter how hard they try to cover up their crime, and bringing them to justice,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
The Israeli military said its forces came under heavy gunfire and explosives during the Jenin operation and fired back. The military said it was “investigating the incident and considering the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that based on the information already gathered, “there is a significant chance that Palestinian gunmen who fired wildly were the ones who brought about the journalist’s unfortunate death.”
Israeli officials pointed to video footage of Palestinian gunmen running down narrow streets, one of whom yelled that a soldier was wounded. Officials say no Israelis were injured in the incident, suggesting gunmen shot dead a journalist instead.
Israel said it had proposed a joint investigation and autopsy with the Palestinian Authority, which declined the offer.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and works with Israel on security issues, condemned what it called a “shocking crime” by the Israeli forces.
Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on camera from the Palestinian territories. Video footage of the incident shows Abu Akleh wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS”.
Samoudi, who worked as her producer, told The Associated Press that they were among a group of seven reporters covering the raid early Wednesday. He said they were all wearing protective gear, which clearly identifies them as reporters, and they walked past Israeli troops so the soldiers would see them and know they were there.
He said the first shot missed them, then a second hit him and a third killed Abu Akleh. He said there were no militants or other civilians in the area – only the reporters and the army.
He said the military’s claim that they were shot dead by militants was a “complete lie”.
Shaza Hanaysheh, a journalist with a Palestinian news website who was also among the reporters, gave a similar account in an interview with Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, saying that there had been no clashes or gunfire in the immediate area.
She said when the shots rang out, she and Abu Akleh ran to a tree for shelter.
“I reached the tree before Shireen. She fell to the ground,” Hanaysheh said. “The soldiers didn’t stop shooting even after she fell. Every time I put my hand out to Shireen, the soldiers shot at us.”
Brig. General Ran Kochav, an Israeli commander, told army radio that the two journalists were “armed with cameras” and standing near Palestinian gunmen. He said the militants were “unprofessional people, terrorists who fired on our troops” and probably met the reporters instead.
Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera, condemned the killing “in the strongest terms”, calling it a “blatant violation of international humanitarian law” and a “blatant attack on media freedom”.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides tweeted that he was “very saddened” to learn of Abu Akleh’s death and called for a “thorough investigation”. He also confirmed that she was an American citizen.
Israel has been conducting raids in the occupied West Bank on an almost daily basis for the past few weeks amid a spate of deadly attacks inside Israel, many perpetrated by Palestinians in and around Jenin. The city and in particular its refugee camp has long been known as a militant bastion.
In another incident on Wednesday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said an 18-year-old man, identified as Thair al-Yazouri, was shot dead by Israeli forces near the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered. The circumstances were unclear and the military said it was investigating the incident.
Israel seized the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East War, and the Palestinians want the area to form the bulk of their future state. Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the area under Israeli military rule. Israel has built more than 130 settlements across the West Bank, home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers who hold full Israeli citizenship.
Israelis have long criticized Al Jazeera’s reporting, but authorities generally allow its journalists to operate freely. Another Al Jazeera reporter, Givara Budeiri, was briefly arrested during a protest in Jerusalem last year and was treated for a broken hand, which her employer blamed on rough treatment by the police.
Relations between the Israeli Defense Forces and the media, particularly Palestinian journalists, are strained. A number of Palestinian reporters were injured by rubber 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 border in 2018.
Another journalist, who worked for a local radio station in Gaza and was shot dead at the Gaza border on the same day, died a week later
In November 2018, Associated Press reporter Rashed Rashid reported on a protest near the Gaza Strip border he was shot in the left ankle, apparently by Israeli fire. Rashid was wearing riot gear that clearly identified him as a journalist and was standing with a group of other journalists about 600 meters (660 yards) from the Israeli border when he was hit. The military never acknowledged the shooting.
During last year’s war between Israel and the militant Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli airstrike occurred destroyed the building in Gaza City houses the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Residents were ordered to evacuate and no one was injured in the strike. Israel said Hamas uses the building as a command center but has not provided any evidence.
Akram reported from Hamilton, Canada. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion in Jerusalem contributed.
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/national-international/al-jazeera-reporter-killed-during-israeli-raid-in-west-bank/3235113/ Al Jazeera reporter killed in Israeli raid in West Bank – NBC10 Philadelphia