Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli troops on Wednesday as she covered a raid on Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
The Doha-based Al Jazeera channel said Abu Akleh, aged 51, a prominent figure in the channel’s Arabic news service was shot “deliberately” and “in cold blood,” by Israeli troops.
The Israeli army confirmed it had conducted an operation early Wednesday in Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. It firmly denied that it had deliberately targeted journalists.
The army said there was an exchange of fire between suspects and security forces and that it was “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”
Al Jazeera called on the international community to hold Israeli forces accountable for their “intentional targeting and killing” of Abu Akleh. “In a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine,” it said.
Another Al Jazeera journalist, producer Ali Al-Samudi, was wounded during the clash, the broadcaster added. In recent weeks, the Israeli army has stepped up operations in Jenin, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian Authority called Abu Akleh’s killing an “execution,” and part of an Israeli effort to obscure the “truth” about its occupation of the West Bank. An official of Hamas, which controls Gaza, called the incident “a premeditated murder.”
While the circumstances of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death were not clear, but videos of the incident show that she was shot in the head, according to the network.
UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, has condemned the killing of Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank.
“I strongly condemn the killing of Al Jazeera’s reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot with live fire this morning while covering an Israeli security forces’ operation in Jenin, in occupied West Bank,” he tweeted. “I call for an immediate and thorough investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable. Media workers should never be targeted.”
United States envoy to Israel Tom Nides has called for a probe into the killing of Abu Akleh, who holds US citizenship. “Very said to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” he tweeted. “I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.”
Not “one-off” event
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch, said Abu Akleh’s death by Israeli forces is not unusual. “We know that Israeli forces systematically have used excessive force,” he said. “This is an event that needs to be understood in the context of this systemic practice and the killings of many other Palestinian journalists.”
Ali al-Samoudi, the Al Jazeera journalist who was also shot by Israeli forces next to Abu Akleh but is now in stable condition, said there was no presence of Palestinian armed fighters at the scene.
“We were going to film the Israeli army raid, and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming,” he said.
“The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen. They killed her in cold blood because they are killers and they specialize in killing only the Palestinian people. “There was no Palestinian military resistance at all at the scene,” he added.
The Palestinian Authority presidency has denounced Abu Akleh’s killing as a “crime of execution”. “The presidency holds the Israeli government fully responsible for this heinous crime,” it said in a statement. The statement said Abu Akleh’s killing “is part of the occupation’s policy of targeting journalists to obscure the truth and commit crimes silently”.
Qatar’s deputy foreign minister condemned the killing of the Al Jazeera reporter by “Israeli occupation” in the West Bank. In a Twitter post, she called for an end to “state-sponsored Israeli terrorism”.
Giles Trendle, Al Jazeera’s managing director, said that the network was “shocked and saddened” by the killing of Abu Akleh. Trendle reminded that a building housing the offices of Al Jazeera and other media organisations was bombed less than a year ago during Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.