Shireen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old Palestinian Arab Christian journalist who obtained United States citizenship while living in New Jersey, was shot and killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during a raid on the West Bank city of Jenin.
The U.S. ambassador to Israel confirmed that Abu Akleh was an American citizen, and called for a “thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death.”
In the image above, Shatha Hanaysha is seen next to the dead body of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin. A video posted on Twitter showed the scene when the shots killed her.
Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arab news network, accused Israeli forces of deliberately killing Abu Akleh, calling it “a blatant murder” and “heinous crime, which intends to only prevent the media from conducting their duty.”
“The Israeli authorities are also responsible for the targeting of Al Jazeera producer Ali al-Samudi, who was also shot in the back while covering the same event, and he is currently undergoing treatment,” said Al Jazeera.
Palestinian reporter Shatha Hanaysha said that she and a fourth journalist, along with Abu Akleh and Ali Samodi, had been pinned down by Israeli snipers, who did not cease firing even after Abu Akleh went down, preventing Hanaysha from pulling the victim in.
“Israeli forces had stormed the camp and surrounded the house of Abdallah al-Hosari, who they killed on 1 March, to arrest his brother,” said Hanaysha. “I turned around and saw my colleague Ali al-Sammoudi on the floor. A bullet hit him in the back but his wound was not serious and he managed to move away from the fire… Right then, another bullet pierced Shireen’s neck, and she fell to the ground right next to me.”
“It was an Israeli sniper that shot at us,” said Hanaysha. “We were not caught up in crossfire with Palestinian fighters like the Israeli army claimed.”
In the United States, a crowd held candles, flags and photos of the slain journalist at a vigil in Paterson on Thursday, calling Abu Akleh an icon and inspiration who braved danger to tell people’s stories. Her death inspired demands for accountability.
For many families, the Al Jazeera reporter was a household name, beloved and respected for her decades of news coverage about the plight of Palestinians living under occupation.
“All of us lost a loved one yesterday when we lost Shireen,” said Abire Sabbagh, community outreach director at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton. “Shireen Abu Akleh was not just a journalist who spoke truth to power. She was someone who taught multiple generations the reality of what life as a Palestinian under occupation is like.”
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the 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, where the refugee camp has long been a militant bastion.
Relations between Israeli forces and the media, especially Palestinian journalists, are strained.
The funeral procession for the Al Jazeera correspondent was disrupted Friday when Israeli forces attacked the crowd of Palestinian mourners carrying her casket, according to reports by The New York Times, Washington Post and other news outlets.