A horrific video shows half a dozen journalists scrambling for cover from Israeli snipers in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, April 11. As the sounds of live rounds whiz by their ears and above their heads, among screams of “stop shooting” and “don’t move,” the body of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a US citizen, lays motionless on the ground, just up against a wall she thought would protect her from death.
Wearing a visible PRESS vest and helmet, the 51-year-old correspondent for Al Jazeera was shot in the head while reporting on an Israeli raid into the refugee camp. She was pronounced dead a few hours later at Ibn Sina Hospital.
“They intentionally shot at us, and their intention was to kill us as they continued shooting even after Shireen was injured.”
Shatha Hanaysha, a journalist who was with Abu Akleh when she was fatally shot, gave a chilling summary of what happened, saying, “We were in an open space, so that the Israeli occupation forces could see us clearly. The four of us were wearing our press gears. There were no clashes or gunmen in the area. In front of us were Israeli snipers and behind us was an Israeli wall. First, Ali Al-Samoudi was shot, and Shireen started screaming. Then, Shireen was injured, and they intentionally shot at us, and their intention was to kill us as they continued shooting even after Shireen was injured.”
Shireen’s death was no accident. Nor was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This was a premediated, calculated, and cold-blooded assassination of a prominent and visible journalist, who was well known for documenting and reporting Israel’s human rights violations and military operations in the occupied Palestinian Territories, having covered the 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021 Israeli wars on Gaza, along with Palestinian uprisings in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Al Jazeera condemned Israel for the killing, calling it “blatant murder” and a “heinous crime,” while the US State Department urged an “immediate and thorough” investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable, saying, “Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere.”
Israel is never held accountable for killing Palestinian journalists, medics, protesters, bystanders, or even children.
But there won’t be justice for Abu Akleh because Israel is never held accountable for killing Palestinian journalists, medics, protesters, bystanders, or even children. Israel will do whatever is necessary to cover up its crimes and apportion blame to the victim, which the Israeli military spokesperson attempted to do when saying, “Abu Akleh was filming and working for a media outlet amidst armed Palestinians,” while absurdly equating journalism with militancy in claiming Palestinian journalists “are armed with cameras.”
Nobody should be surprised to learn Abu Akleh is the 47th Palestinian journalist to be killed by Israeli forces since 2000. And nobody has been held to account.
Her death comes just days after the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), along with the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) and Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), filed a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Israel of “systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists.”
The complaint represents four named victims – Ahmed Abu Hussein, Yaser Murtaja, Muath Amarneh and Nedal Eshtayeh – who were killed or maimed by Israeli snipers while covering demonstrations in Gaza. Notably, all were wearing vests clearly marked “PRESS” at the time they were shot. It also details the deliberate bombing of the Al-Shorouk and Al-Jawhara Towers in Gaza City in May 2021, which were home to international news outlets Al Jazeera and Associated Press, along with local agencies Alam News, Al Hayat Newspapers, Mayadeen Media, Al Bawaba 24 and others.
A recent UN Human Rights Council report “found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognisable as such,” during the Great Return March protests along the Gaza border in 2018.
Israel deliberately targets journalists because their reporting conveys the brutal and illegal realities of the Israeli occupation.
Israel deliberately targets journalists at the sites of Israeli military aggression because their reporting conveys to the world the brutal and illegal realities of the Israeli occupation and system of apartheid. But more to the point, Israel knows it can get away with murder, even when the deceased is a US citizen. James Zogby, founder of the American Arab Institute said, “In the 45 years I’ve worked on Palestinian human rights, I’ve seen the US fail to act to protect its citizens killed, imprisoned, tortured, denied entry and more.”
“When the US citizen victims are of Arab descent and the victimizer is Israel, the US government falls silent or makes perfunctory statements and then let’s it go,” he added.
Zogby predicts the Israeli propaganda machine will kick into “high gear” with denials, obfuscation, and lies, including, “We didn’t do it,” “Maybe Palestinians did it,” and “We’ll investigate it.” His predication came true barely a few hours later, when Israel proposed a joint probe into the killing of Abu Akleh but didn’t tell the Palestinians.
Ultimately, the US government, along with the rest of the international community, must do more than offer words of condemnation, because the assassination of Abu Akleh is an act of terrorism meant to signal to Palestinian journalists that they’re putting themselves in the line of fire by reporting Israel’s war crimes and human rights violations.
To not hold her killers responsible and bring them to justice is to signal to the Palestinian people that nobody is coming to save them, which, in turn, only encourages further acts of terror by Israel.