An Al Jazeera reporter was shot and killed while on assignment during an Israeli raid in the West Bank Wednesday, the Quatar-based broadcaster said.
According to Al Jazeera, Shireen Abu Akleh — who was also an American citizen — was wearing a standard-issue protective press vest when she was shot in the back of the head while reporting in the town of Jenin. Her producer was also shot during the incident but survived, the Associated Press reported. While Israeli officials said Abu Akleh’s fatal injuries were possibly caused “by Palestinian armed gunfire,” the Palestinian Ministry of Health and another journalist wounded during the raid said the shots were fired by Israeli forces. “Al Jazeera Media Network condemns this heinous crime, which intends to only prevent the media from conducting their duty,” the news network said in a statement.
“She fell on the ground,” Shaza Hanaysheh, a Palestinian reporter, told the Associated Press. “The soldiers did not stop shooting even after she fell. Every time I extended my hand toward Shireen, the soldiers fired at us.”
Abu Akleh, 51, was a well-known reporter in the region who had worked for Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel for over two decades. As news of her death spread, journalists from around the world paid tribute to Abu Akleh on social media, with many calling for increased protection for reporters in conflict zones. Washington D.C.-based Al Jazeera reporter Biesan Abu-Kwaik called her colleague “one of a kind,” while Nadi Abusaada, editor of the academic journal Arab Urbanism, said the reporter was “an icon for all of us who grew up watching her everyday on TV.”
Other journalists strongly condemned the circumstances that led to Abu Akleh’s death. “Shireen is an American citizen. Is that gonna make a difference?” asked journalist Dalia Hatuqa, noting that she doesn’t want Abu Akleh’s death to become “another statistic” of the ongoing conflict in the West Bank. “I want the U.S. administration to admit it has failed us as American citizens, that its weapons are killing us, that our lives don’t matter as long as the killers are an ‘ally.'” Mondoweiss‘ Palestinian News Director Yunma Patel called the shooting “an execution.”
Israel, meanwhile, condemned the attack and promised a thorough investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. “Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,” Yair Lapid, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement.
Wednesday’s incident was not the first time journalists have become caught in the crossfire while reporting in the West Bank. Almost one year ago, the Associated Press offices in Gaza were destroyed during an Israeli airstrike — an event the news agency called “shocking and horrifying.” In 2018, two Palestinian reporters died from gunshot wounds sustained during coverage of mass protests near the Israeli border. An Associated Press videographer was also shot in the leg, allegedly by Israeli forces, later that year — although Israel declined the news organization’s repeated requests to investigate the incident.