“That’s not a kill shot. That’s a murder shot,” screamed the lines from an obituary of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh published by Al Jazeera, which she used to work for. There are other sob stories about the said journalist’s ‘murder’ in the Islamic propaganda website — filled in no small measure by the media house’s woke, atheist and Christian writers. But was Shireen Abu Akleh eliminated in cold blood by the Israeli security forces? Media reports other than those published or broadcast by Al Jazeera tell a story that may not evoke as strong a sentiment that the propaganda is managing to do.
On 11 May, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced the death of Abu Akleh. She had been reporting on an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) raid on a house when, according to witnesses and Al-Jazeera, she was shot and killed by the IDF. Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately targeting the victim. Abu Akleh was present at a raid which the Israeli military stated was targeted at capturing “terror suspects”.
Al Jazeera said that Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head by the IDF and transported to Ibn Sina Hospital where she was pronounced dead. She was 51 years old.
Another journalist, Ali Samodi of Al-Quds newspaper, was shot in the back but survived. Two other Palestinians were transported to a hospital in moderate condition.
The Times of London reported that Shireen Abu Akleh was shot by a sniper. Shatha Hanaysha, a Palestinian journalist, 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.
According to the Israeli military, however, Palestinian militants had fired on IDF soldiers, after which the soldiers returned fire. The IDF released a video showing Palestinian gunmen firing in the Jenin camp, purportedly in the area where Abu Akleh was killed.
In the video, a militant was heard saying “They [Palestinian militants]’ve hit one, they’ve hit a soldier, he’s laying on the ground.” As no Israeli soldiers were injured during the operation, Israeli authorities said it was likely the Palestinians had shot Akleh by mistake, thinking she was a soldier.
A Haaretz report found the possibility unlikely as several buildings blocked a direct line of sight between that militant and the reporter.
Multiple ‘eyewitnesses’, including two journalists standing next to Shireen Abu Akleh, reported that the area had been relatively quiet immediately prior to her death and no Palestinians, civilian or otherwise, were present, disputing Israeli statements of her having died in a crossfire. But if these peers of the Jazeera journalist were eyewitnesses, how come they were spared?
Al Jazeera reported that according to their Ramallah bureau chief, Walid Al-Omari, there was no shooting by Palestinian gunmen. Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative stated that there was “no exchange of fire” at the scene.
Al-Omari stated that Shireen Abu Akleh had been wearing a helmet and was shot in an unprotected area under her ear, suggesting that this demonstrated she was “deliberately targeted”.
Video of the shooting showed Abu Akleh wearing a blue flak jacket that was clearly marked “PRESS”. An Agence France-Presse photojournalist reported that Israeli forces had shot and killed Shireen Abu Akleh, but the autopsy at An-Najah National University was unable to determine who shot Abu Akleh. The pathologist found no evidence that she had been shot at close range. The autopsy confirmed that Abu Akleh was killed by a bullet which struck her in the head, causing skull fractures and damage to the brain. The bullet was recovered and sent for further examination.
Minister of Defence Benny Gantz said the IDF had requested the Palestinians to let the Israelis examine the bullet. Israel also suggested a joint probe into the death, which was rejected by the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that it wanted an independent investigation.
The IDF later announced that it had begun investigating the possibility that one of its soldiers had shot and killed Shireen Abu Akleh, beginning inquiries into three shooting incidents that involved its soldiers, with one of them occurring within 150 m of where Abu Akleh was located. An IDF official said that this was “the more probable to be involved in the death” of the three being investigated.
Aftermath of killing of Shireen Abu Akleh
The funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh took place on 13 May in East Jerusalem. Thousands of mourners attended, many carrying Palestinian flags.
The procession began at the Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem but was interrupted when a group of mourners blocked the hearse’s path, insisting her body could be carried on their shoulders.
Israeli police burst through the gates and attacked mourners with batons and stun grenades, some repeatedly hitting and kicking pall bearers that were backed against a wall resulting in her coffin nearly falling to the ground.
The Israeli police said they acted on the grounds of the crowd “disrupting public order”. Israeli police tried to prohibit the mourners from publicly displaying the Palestinian flag, but mourners were seen openly waving the flag and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” The police also said that stones were thrown at its officers. A video showed a police officer telling the crowd that “If you don’t stop these chants and nationalistic songs we will have to disperse you using force and we won’t let the funeral take place.”
The coffin was later loaded on to a hearse and transported to the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin for the funeral, and from there carried on foot to the Mount Zion Cemetery where she was buried next to her parents.
The European Union released a statement saying it was “appalled by the violence in the St Joseph hospital compound and the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession.