UN, EU, US mourn Palestinian journalist killed in Jenin, call for investigation

Qatar slams killing of Shireen Abu Akleh as ‘Israeli terrorism’; Israeli officials say initial investigation indicates Palestinian fire likely led to her death

People gather at the Al Jazeera offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 11, 2022 following the killing of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen as she covered an Israeli raid on the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
People gather at the Al Jazeera offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 11, 2022 following the killing of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen as she covered an Israeli raid on the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

The United States, the international community and neighboring Arab states called for an investigation into the killing of veteran Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli raid in Jenin on Wednesday.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry and Palestinian witnesses, including other journalists, charged that Israeli troops raiding Jenin on Wednesday morning fired the gunshots that killed Abu Akleh.

Israeli leaders claim she was likely killed by Palestinian fire. Defense Minister told parliament on Wednesday afternoon that preliminary findings showed “no [Israeli] gunfire was directed at the journalist” whereas “we have seen footage of indiscriminate shooting by Palestinian terrorists, which is likely to have hit the journalist.”

United States Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides called for a “thorough” investigation into the death of Abu Akleh, a US citizen.

“Very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin,” he said.

A US embassy spokesperson called Abu Akleh “deeply respected by many Palestinians and others around the world” for her coverage.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US demands an “immediate and thorough” investigation into the killing.

“We are heartbroken by and strongly condemn the killing,” Price said.“Those responsible must be held accountable.” he said.

“Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere,” he said.

United Nations Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland similarly called for an “immediate and thorough investigation,” without specifying who was responsible.

“I strongly condemn the killing of Al Jazeera’s reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot with live fire this morning while covering an Israeli security forces’ operation in #Jenin, in occupied West Bank,” Wennesland said.

The European Union called for “a swift and independent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, a veteran Al Jazeera journalist who was shot and killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 (courtesy)

Israeli officials said Abu Akleh was likely killed by errant Palestinian gunshots, but insisted they will continue to investigate the incident.

“The evidence in our hands indicates that there is a reasonable chance that the journalist was shot by Palestinian gunfire, but as stated, we will do a comprehensive and in-depth inquiry,” Defense Minister Gantz told the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon.

Palestinian health officials and witnesses rejected the possibility that Abu Akleh was killed by errant Palestinian gunfire. In footage seen by The Times of Israel, the journalists can be seen more or less on their own — with no armed Palestinians nearby.

Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. Carrying both a Jerusalem residency card and an American passport, she began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on-camera from across Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

“I chose to become a journalist to be close to people. It may not be easy to change reality, but I was at least able to bring their voice to the world,” Abu Akleh said in a video taped for the Qatari channel’s 25th anniversary.

Abu Akleh’s position at the pan-Arab Al Jazeera network made her a familiar face to tens of millions of viewers around the Arab world. Her death set ripples through Arab media across the

Jordan also condemned the Abu Akleh’s killing, which it called “a horrific crime.” But Amman refrained from specifically blaming Israel.

“We strongly condemn the killing of renowned Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in occupied Jenin. This is a horrific crime that must be transparently investigated & its perpetrators brought to justice. Deepest condolences to her family & to Al Jazeera network,” said Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi.

US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Richard Nides speaks during his swearing-in ceremony as new ambassador to Israel, at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, on December 5, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

By contrast, Qatari Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Lolwah Alkhater called Abu Akleh’s death “Israeli terrorism.”

“This state sponsored Israeli terrorism must STOP, unconditional support to Israel must END,” tweeted Alkhater.

Al Jazeera accused Israeli soldiers of “deliberately targeting and killing” Abu Akleh “in cold blood.”

“We call on the international community to condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable,” the Qatar-based broadcaster said.

In the wake of Abu Akleh’s death, senior Israeli officials said Israel offered to conduct a joint investigation in the killing alongside the Palestinian Authority, but Ramallah refused.

“As we have said the Palestinians are refusing [this request]. I expect them to cooperate and not to undertake any operations which could taint the investigation,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a Knesset speech on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a Knesset plenum session, on May 9, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar charged that “the Palestinians, as usual, are rushing into a blood libel against the Israel Defense Forces.”

But senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh denied Israel had ever reached out about conducting a joint investigation.

“We deny what the Prime Minister of the occupation government said about sending a missive to the Palestinian Authority about conducting an investigation into [Abu Akleh’s] assassination,” al-Sheikh tweeted.

Al-Sheikh vowed that Ramallah would take Abu Akleh’s case to the International Criminal Court, which last year opened a war crimes investigation into the West Bank and Gaza.

According to the Israeli military, troops entered Jenin’s flashpoint refugee camp and the nearby town of Burqin to arrest terror suspects. After a wave of terror attacks in Israeli cities, soldiers have stepped up their raids in the West Bank in an effort to tamp down the violence.

“During the operation in Jenin refugee camp, suspects fired an enormous amount of gunfire at troops and hurled explosive devices. [Israeli] forces fired back” the army said in a statement.

“Hits were identified,” the military added, although there were no reports of Palestinian casualties beyond the two journalists.

An Israeli soldier takes a measurement in the home of the terrorist who killed three in Tel Aviv, during a raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, on April 9, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The army said it was “looking into the possibility that journalists were injured, potentially by Palestinian gunfire.” In video from the scene, Palestinian gunmen can be seen firing off rounds; at one point, one Palestinian says that an Israeli soldier was hit by gunfire.

Palestinian journalist Ali Samoudi, who was working as her producer and was injured by gunfire, told The Associated Press they were among a group of seven reporters who went to cover the raid early Wednesday. He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly marked them as reporters, and they passed by Israeli troops so the soldiers would see them and know that they were there.

He said the first shot missed them, then a second struck him, and a third killed Abu Akleh. He said there were no armed Palestinians or other civilians in the area — only the reporters and the army.

Samoudi said the military’s suggestion that they were shot by armed Palestinians was a “complete lie.”

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