A journalist for Al Jazeera was shot and killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin early Wednesday. The broadcaster blamed Israeli forces, who said they were investigating the incident.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Palestinian female reporter for the broadcaster’s Arabic language channel, was shot and died soon afterward. Another Palestinian journalist working for the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper was wounded but in stable condition, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
The Qatar-based broadcaster blamed Israeli forces. In a statement flashed on its channel, it called on the international community to “condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh.”
In video footage of the incident, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”
Israeli military says it’s investigating
The Israeli military said its forces came under attack with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they fired back. The military said it is “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”
Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said it had proposed to the Palestinian Authority a joint investigation into the reporter’s death. “Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,” he tweeted.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and co-operates with Israel on security matters, condemned what it said was a “shocking crime” committed by Israeli forces.
Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on-camera from across the Palestinian territories.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from in and around Jenin. The town, and particularly its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant bastion.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of their future state. Nearly three million Palestinians live in the territory under Israeli military rule. Israel has built more than 130 settlements across the West Bank that are home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers, who have full Israeli citizenship.
Al Jazeera reporter briefly detained last year
Israelis have long been critical of Al Jazeera’s coverage, but authorities generally allow its journalists to operate freely. Another Al Jazeera reporter, Givara Budeiri, was briefly detained last year during a protest in Jerusalem and treated for a broken hand, which her employer blamed on rough treatment by police.
Relations between Israeli forces and the media, especially Palestinian journalists, is strained. A number of Palestinian reporters have been wounded by rubber-coated 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 frontier in 2018.
Another journalist working for a local Gaza radio station, who was shot on the same day at Gaza frontier, died a week later.
In November 2018, Associated Press reporter Rashed Rashid was covering a protest near the Gaza frontier when he was shot in the left ankle, apparently by Israeli fire. Rashid was wearing protective gear that clearly identified him as a journalist, and was standing with a crowd of other journalists some 600 metres away from the Israeli border when he was hit. The military has never acknowledged the shooting.
During last year’s war between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the building in Gaza City housing the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Residents were warned to evacuate and no one was hurt in the strike. Israel said Hamas was using the building as a command centre but has provided no evidence.