Al Jazeera Journalist Killed During Israeli Raid in West Bank

  • Israel says troops exchanged fire with Palestinians
  • Israeli defense chief says it’s unclear who killed reporter

JENIN, West Bank, May 11 (Reuters) – A prominent Palestinian-American reporter for Al Jazeera was shot dead during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, and Israel said it was launching an investigation to try to determine who killed her.

Veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, was wearing a press vest clearly marking her “Press” while reporting in the city of Jenin, the Qatar-based outlet said.

He was covering the latest arrest operation launched by the Israeli army amid deadly Arab attacks in Israel.

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The death of a distinguished reporter who has been covering Palestinian and Middle East affairs for more than two decades on the popular news channel watched by millions in the Arab world seemed likely to add fuel to a growing conflict.

In an Al Jazeera video captured in the moments around Abu Akleh’s murder, gunshots can be heard in the first few seconds before a man yells “Shireen! Shireen! Ambulance!”

The camera then pans around the corner to show Abu Akleh slumped face down on the ground. Other journalists are seen running for cover.

Another Palestinian journalist at the scene, Ali Samoodi, was also injured.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described Abu Akleh’s death as a flagrant cold-blooded murder by the Israeli army, which said dozens of armed Palestinians had clashed with troops who arrested a Hamas militant in Jenin.

However, a Palestinian forensic doctor did not echo the accusation and refused to comment on who might have fired the shot, after an autopsy was carried out in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Abbas was making baseless accusations before Israel conducted a “thorough investigation.”

Bennett said it seemed likely that Palestinians “shooting indiscriminately” were responsible for Abu Akleh’s death. But Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz was later more circumspect.

“Our initial investigative findings thus far cannot indicate which shots were directed at Shireen, and I cannot exclude any options under the operational chaos on the ground,” Gantz told reporters.

The White House strongly condemned the killing and called for an investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. read more

On Twitter, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said his death was an affront to press freedom everywhere.

“The Israelis have the means and the ability to conduct a thorough and thorough investigation,” Price said at a news conference.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, was “dismayed” by the murder and called on “the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation” to ensure that those responsible are held accountable, said the deputy spokesman for the UN, Farhan Haq, in a statement.


Journalist Samoodi said Israeli forces “suddenly opened fire” on Abu Akleh and himself during the Jenin operation. He disputed an Israeli military account that gunmen were nearby when the two were shot.

Since March, Palestinians and members of Israel’s Arab minority have killed 18 people, including three police officers and a security guard, in attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have mostly targeted civilians.

Some of the attackers have come from Jenin. The city has been a main target of Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank that have often sparked clashes and brought the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or armed civilians since the beginning of the year to at least 42.

Victims include armed members of militant groups, lone assailants and bystanders.

Visits by Jewish pilgrims in recent weeks to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism, have fueled Palestinian anger.

Samoodi, treated for his injuries at a hospital in Jenin, told reporters: “They (Israeli soldiers) did not ask us to leave and they did not ask us to stop (filming). They shot at us. One bullet hit me and another hit Shireen. They killed her in cold blood.”

An Israeli military spokesman, briefing foreign journalists and describing Abu Akleh’s death as tragic, said that Israeli troops would never deliberately attack a non-combatant. He said there were three direct exchanges of fire with Palestinian gunmen during the raid.

World leaders, human rights advocates and press freedom groups have condemned the killing and called for an investigation.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield recalled being interviewed by the “highly respected” Abu Akleh late last year, calling his death “really horrific.”

In a Reuters video, Abu Akleh’s colleagues were seen standing around his body, which was draped in the Palestinian flag with a press jacket over it, as a priest prayed.

The US commander of US forces in the Middle East, Army General Michael “Erik” Kurilla, said his thoughts were with Abu Akleh, his family and his colleagues at Al Jazeera.

“Around the world, reporters like Shireen show extraordinary courage every day,” Kurilla said during a trip to the region.

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Written by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Reporting from Dan Williams, Maayan Lubell, and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Andrew Mills in Doha, Phil Stewart in Riyadh, Michelle Nichols in New York, and Humeyra Pamuk in Washington; Edited by Christopher Cushing, Robert Birsel, Toby Chopra, William Maclean, Marguerita Choy, and Leslie Adler

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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