Shireen Abu Aqleh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera in Israel and the Palestinian territories, died early Wednesday morning after being shot in the head during an Israeli army raid in Jenin, in the northern West Bank.
The veteran journalist, very popular in the Arab world after decades covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she was hit by a projectile despite the fact that she was clearly identified with a press vest. She was with a group of seven reporters covering the event, in a city where Israeli incursions have been a constant in recent weeks. Several of the attackers who carried out recent deadly attacks in Israel were natives of Jenin.
After the tragic incident, the “information war” broke out. According to witnesses present at the scene, Abu Aqleh was hit by Israeli sniper fire from an adjoining building packed with soldiers. Another journalist who accompanied her, who was shot in the back, confirmed that they were all properly identified, and that they had previously walked in front of a military patrol.
However, Israel immediately claimed that the journalist could have been hit by bullets fired by Palestinian militiamen. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett considered that “according to the information we have, there are considerable chances that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, caused the tragic death of the journalist.”
The Israeli army, which reported that the troops were met with live fire and explosive devices upon arrival at the Jenin refugee camp, distributed a video showing militiamen shooting and celebrating that “they had hit a soldier who was lying on the ground.” .
But hours later, the NGO BetSelem distributed a video filmed by an activist from the organization, which reflects that the place where Abu Aqleh was hit was hundreds of meters from the alley from which the Palestinians fired. Mujahed al-Saadi, another journalist present, said that the group of reporters was waiting at the entrance to the refugee camp. “We picked a spot away from the confrontations, and we waited for Shireen to put on her protective gear.”
Suddenly, they were the target of the bullets, and moments later the journalist was dead on the ground. According to al-Saadi, neither they nor other young villagers were able to help her, as “the shooting continued while she was lying under a tree. When someone wanted to get close, they shot at us.”
Faced with conflicting accounts, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated that a “joint pathological investigation was offered into the tragic death of Shireen Abu Aqleh. Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we are all responsible for getting to the truth.” But Ibrahim Milhim, spokesman for the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), flatly rejected it: “since when does a criminal have the right to take part in the investigation against his victim? They must be brought before the International Criminal Court, we demand an investigation into Shireen’s death as well as other crimes committed against Palestinians.”
From the Israeli embassy in Spain, they reported that “Israeli forces always warn journalists who cover this type of situation, that they must be extremely careful when entering and staying in spaces where shots are recorded by terrorists.” The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate interpreted what happened as “a clear murder perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army, and a crime against press freedom.” In recent months, other reporters have been injured while covering unrest between Palestinians and Israeli forces.
The UN special envoy in the region, Tow Wennesland, roundly condemned what happened, and called for “an immediate investigation so that those responsible are brought to justice. Journalists should never be targeted.”
Shireen Abu Aqleh had been working for Al Jazeera since 1997, and was described by friends and colleagues as a kind and courageous reporter, always focused on telling the stories of the Palestinian people. MP Khalid Jarrar stated that “Shireen was our voice, she is amazing. She is an intentional crime, she was a target.” In social networks, she was hailed as “a wonderful human being”, and they did not believe what happened.
The Israeli army modified its initial accusation alleging that the journalist was killed by Palestinian fire, and clarified that “at the moment it is not possible to determine which shots killed Abu Aqleh.”