Updated May 11, 2022 - World

Palestinian American Al Jazeera journalist killed in the West Bank

Palestinians hold posters displaying veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh on May 11 in Hebron.
Palestinians hold posters displaying Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh on May 11 in Hebron. Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot while covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank on Wednesday morning.

The big picture: Tom Nides, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, confirmed Shireen Abu Akleh was a Palestinian American citizen and called for "a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death," as Palestinian and Israeli officials gave conflicting accounts of what happened to the veteran reporter.

  • The Palestinian Ministry of Health and Al Jazeera, including journalists who witnessed the incident, said she was killed by Israeli gunfire
  • Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that, according to Israeli information, "It appears likely that armed Palestinians — who were indiscriminately firing at the time — were responsible."
  • But later Wednesday, the Israeli military backtracked from its initial claim that Abu Akleh may have been killed by Palestinian gunmen. Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, IDF chief of staff, said in a statement that “at the moment, it is not possible to determine from which fire Abu Akleh was killed." Kohavi said he regrets her death and announced he appointed a special team to hold an operational investigation into the incident.

Driving the news: Israeli military forces entered Jenin in an operation to arrest Palestinians suspected of planning attacks against Israelis, the Israeli military said.

  • According to the Israeli military, during the incursion, Palestinian militants fired at the Israeli forces and used explosive devices.
  • Palestinian officials said 51-year-old Abu Akleh and another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samudi, who works for al-Quds newspaper, were shot by Israeli soldiers. Al-Samudi was wounded, but his condition is reported as stable.
  • They were both wearing bulletproof vests with the word "Press" on them.
  • Bennett shared a video of Palestinian gunmen firing and shouting that an Israeli soldier was hit. But shortly after, Al Jazeera published a video of Abu Akleh's body on the ground from a different angle and what appeared to be a different location from where the video Bennett shared was taken.
  • Another video published by the B'Tselem human rights group that was filmed by a researcher on the ground hours later showed the locations in the two videos are different and hundreds of meters apart.
  • Bennett said no Israeli soldier was injured during the clashes.

Abu Akleh had worked for Al Jazeera's Arabic channel since 1997, covering the West Bank.

  • She was a highly respected journalist who was well-known in the Arab world and beyond.
  • Al Jazeera said in a statement that the Israeli military "assassinated Abu Akleh in cold blood" and called on the international community to condemn her killing and hold Israel accountable.
  • "We commit to take legal action against those responsible and bring them to justice," the news outlet said.

What they're saying: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing of Abu Akleh, saying Israel was responsible "for a crime against a Palestinian journalist who was trying to tell the truth."

  • Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister for civilian affairs, said, "The truth is murdered by the bullets of the occupation. A sad day in Palestine."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned the killing on Twitter and called for an "immediate and thorough" investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable.

  • "Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere," he said.

Bennett said Israel's government had called on Palestinian officials to conduct a joint pathological analysis and investigation into Abu Akleh's death, but they had so far refused this offer.

  • Israeli officials said Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke to al-Sheikh Wednesday morning and proposed holding a joint investigation. Earlier, Lapid said, "Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth."
  • Al-Sheikh on Twitter denied that Israeli officials "were heading to the Palestinian Authority to conduct an investigation into her assassination." He added that "the Palestinian Authority will transfer this file to the International Criminal Court."
  • Ibrahim Milhim, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, told Al Jazeera that Palestinian officials "reject and refuse the participation of any Israelis in this kind of investigation."
  • “Let me ask, when does the criminal have the right to take part in the investigation against his victim?” Milhim said.

State of play: The director of the forensic institute in Ramallah said the first stage of the autopsy was completed and a piece of a bullet was extracted from Abu Akleh’s body and sent for a lab test. He said there was no evidence so far that could allow officials to determine who shot her.

  • Abbas will lead a ceremony honoring Abu Akleh at the Palestinian Presidential compound in Ramallah tomorrow.
  • A funeral is expected to take place Friday in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem where Abu Akleh lived.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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