Shireen Abu Akleh of Al Jazeera Is Killed in West Bank

WORLD NEWS: Shireen Abu Akleh of Al Jazeera Is Killed in West Bank

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JERUSALEM — A journalist for Al Jazeera was fatally shot in the West Bank city of Jenin early Wednesday, the news network and the Palestinian Health Ministry said, blaming Israeli forces for her death.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting of the journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American, were not immediately clear but she was shot as clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinian gunmen took place in the city.

Al Jazeera, citing the Health Ministry, said the journalist had been shot in the head by Israeli forces during a raid. A second journalist was hospitalized after being hit in the back, the ministry said.

“Al Jazeera holds the Israeli government and the occupation forces responsible for the killing of Shireen,” the news network said in a statement. “It also calls on the international community to condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable.”

The Israeli military’s chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, said it was not clear who had shot the journalist. In a separate statement, the military said it was investigating the possibility that “the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”

In an evening briefing, Israel’s minister of defense, Benny Gantz, emphasized the uncertainty. “It can be Palestinians who shot her,” he said. “Tragically, it may be on our side. We are investigating it.”

Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, a veteran journalist, was wearing a protective vest that identified her as a member of the news media, video from the moments around her death showed.

The video, broadcast by Al Jazeera, does not show Ms. Abu Akleh being shot but gunfire can be heard in the first few seconds, followed by a man yelling, “Injured! Shireen, Shireen, oh man, Shireen! Ambulance!”

As he continues to yell for an ambulance, the camera moves toward Ms. Abu Akleh, who is slumped face down.

Next to her in the video, another journalist, identified by the network as Shatha Hanaysha and also wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, crouches down and tries to reach out to Ms. Abu Akleh. But she was forced back by gunfire.

Ms. Hanaysha told Al Jazeera that there had not been any confrontations between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army when the shots were fired toward the journalists, adding that she believed that they had been targeted.

“We were four journalists — we were all wearing vests, all wearing helmets,” Ms. Hanaysha told Al Jazeera. Israeli forces, she said, “did not stop firing even after she collapsed. I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots. The army was adamant on shooting to kill.”

Another Al Jazeera journalist, Ali Samoudi, who was also wearing a protective vest, was shot in the back, according to the official Palestinian news agency, which cited the Health Ministry. Al Jazeera reported that he was in stable condition.

In a phone interview from his hospital bed, Mr. Samoudi said: “There were no armed Palestinians or resistance or even civilians in the area,” adding: “We walked toward the soldiers for about 20 meters. Then all of a sudden the first bullet was fired.”

Thomas R. Nides, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said in a tweet: “Very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.” He added: “I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called Ms. Abu Akleh’s death “horrifying.”

“She was doing her job,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said, adding, “We have to ensure that we get to the bottom of her killing.”

In the wake of several attacks by Palestinians that have killed 19 Israelis and foreigners since late March, the Israeli military has been carrying out regular raids into Jenin since early April. At least three of the suspected perpetrators of those recent Palestinian attacks were from the Jenin area.

The Israeli military said in a statement that its forces had been in Jenin to arrest suspects and came under fire first.

“Massive fire was shot toward Israeli forces by tens of armed Palestinian gunmen,” the military statement said, adding that they “also hurled explosive devices toward the soldiers, endangering their lives. The soldiers responded with fire toward the sources of the fire and explosive devices. Hits were identified.”

Israeli officials said the Palestinian Authority had “rushed to blame Israel” before ascertaining the facts. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that it had offered to conduct a joint investigation with the Palestinians but the Palestinian Authority had refused.

“Her death is a tragedy but no one should use it for political gains, especially those who violate human rights on a daily basis,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement.

A senior Palestinian official, Hussein al-Sheikh, denied that an offer of a joint investigation had been made.

In a separate statement, the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, said that Israeli forces had returned fire as “accurately, carefully and responsibly as possible,” and that “there is a significant possibility that the journalist was shot by the armed Palestinians.”

Mr. Bennett’s office circulated a video, first broadcast by Al Jazeera on Wednesday morning, that showed Palestinian gunmen in a different part of Jenin firing down an alley, and a voice saying in Arabic: “They’ve hit one — they’ve hit a soldier. He’s lying on the ground.”

Since no Israeli soldiers were reported killed on Wednesday, Mr. Bennett’s office said the video suggested that “Palestinian terrorists were the ones who shot the journalist.”

However, an Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, released a map of the location where Ms. Abu Akleh was killed, which it said was several hundred yards from where the video circulated by the prime minister’s office had been filmed.

The GPS coordinates of the two locations as well as an aerial photograph “demonstrate that the shooting depicted in this video could not possibly be the gunfire that hit Shireen Abu Akleh and her colleague,” the rights group said.

Mr. Samoudi said there were no clashes taking place where he and Ms. Abu Akleh were hit, and that they were shot by Israeli soldiers.

In a separate episode on Wednesday, a man was shot by the Israeli police after charging at officers in the Old City of Jerusalem, according to Kan, the Israeli public broadcaster.

The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned what he called the “assassination” of Ms. Abu Akleh and said he held Israel fully responsible for her death. Mr. Abbas said the death was part of a broader Israeli policy of targeting journalists to “blur reality and carry out crimes in silence.”

Last month, international and Palestinian journalist groups filed a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing Israel of war crimes against journalists and of systematically targeting journalists working in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, as well as of failing to properly investigate killings of news media workers.

Ms. Abu Akleh “joins other journalists that Israel killed as they worked on revealing the crimes of the Israeli occupation,” the Palestinian information ministry said in a statement.

The Palestinian Authority’s state prosecutor’s office said it had begun an investigation into Ms. Abu Akleh’s death and Mr. Samoudi’s injury, in preparation to refer the case to the International Criminal Court. An autopsy on Ms. Abu Akleh was performed, a spokeswoman said.

Ms. Abu Akleh joined Al Jazeera in 1997 and was one of its first field correspondents, the network said.

The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Britain, Husam Zomlot, called her the “most prominent Palestinian journalist.”

Israeli police officers later entered Ms. Abu Akleh’s family home in northeast Jerusalem to ask the family to turn off a sound system, an Al Jazeera correspondent said on Twitter. Video showed the police officers leaving the home, as bystanders shouted, “Killers.”

The death of Ms. Abu Akleh comes in a year that is shaping up to be a particularly deadly one for media professionals around the world.

At least 27 have been killed while working or for reasons relating to their journalistic activities since Jan. 1, including seven in Ukraine and eight in Mexico, according to the nonprofit Reporters Without Borders. The Committee to Protect Journalists’ tally says 29 journalists and media workers have been killed this year.

Reporting was contributed by Hiba Yazbek from Nazareth, Israel, Victoria Kimfrom Seoul and Lara Jakes from Washington.



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