Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli forces killed the Al-Jazeera journalist wearing body armor marked "PRESS"
(Washington, DC, May 11, 2022) – Israeli forces have killed Palestinian journalist and U.S. citizen Shireen Abu Akleh from Al-Jazeera and wounded Palestinian journalist Ali Al-Samudi from Al-Quds newspaper during an armed incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, according to multiple journalists who witnessed the attack.
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) calls on the U.S. government to launch an investigation into the killing of yet another American citizen by Israeli forces this year, this time a journalist, and to hold accountable those responsible.
Journalists and eyewitnesses who were on the scene, including an AFP photographer, reported that Israeli soldiers shot Abu Akleh in the head, who was wearing a helmet and blue body armor clearly marked with the word 'PRESS' across the front and back. Witnesses, including Ali Al-Samudi, refuted the Israeli government's initial claims that Palestinian militants who were firing in the area at the time were responsible for the killing. Israeli officials revised such assertions after eyewitness statements and other visual evidence were widely shared that discredited the official Israeli assertions.
"Israeli forces today killed a brave Palestinian journalist, Shirin Abu Akleh, who risked her life for years to expose Israeli crimes in Palestine and deserves global gratitude and respect for her selfless commitment to truth," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of DAWN. "It is no surprise at all that Israel, which has a persistent record of lies, denials, and obfuscations, jumped to blame Palestinians for the killing instead of taking responsibility for the relentless violence of its apartheid and occupation. "
Abu Akleh worked for decades reporting from Palestine for Al-Jazeera, and her broadcasts over the years gave unparalleled insight and documentation of the Israeli occupation and its impacts on Palestinian life.
In Israel, officials initially took to the media and issued statements to allege that Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian militants but also to suggest that she deserved to be killed because she was a journalist. Israeli military spokesperson Ron Kochav told Israeli Army Radio that Abu Akleh and other journalists were "armed with cameras if you'll permit me to say so," implying that they were legitimate targets. A right-wing Israeli Member of Knesset, Itamar Ben Gvir, offered his support for the murder and justified the killing of journalists, tweeting that Al Jazeera journalists "often deliberately stand in the middle of the battle and disturb the soldiers….". Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, subsequently amended earlier assertions, stating, "at this stage, we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death."
The attack on the journalists comes just a month after the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate (PJS) and Bindmans LLP, and Doughty Street Chambers submitted a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court "alleging that Israel's systematic targeting of journalists working in Palestine and its failure to properly investigate killings of media workers amount to war crimes."
The U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, issued a perfunctory statement, "The United States encourages a swift, thorough, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of her death," even though Israel's track record of investigating and holding Israeli soldiers accountable for the killing of American citizens, Palestinian-Americans and journalists – and of course, Palestinians – is neither transparent, credible or reliable. No punitive measures have been taken by the Israeli government for the perpetrators of previous killings of U.S. citizens, including Rachel Corrie, Orwah Hammad, Mahmoud Shaalan, and Omar Asad. DAWN urged the U.S. government to conduct its own investigation into the killing of a U.S. citizen and to demand that Israel grant it access to relevant evidence, including soldiers and officials involved in the incursion.
"We have seen this before – particularly with the killing of journalists by Israeli forces – first deny, then blame others, then prevent any meaningful investigation, and move on. And we have seen the U.S.—even in the cases of murdered American citizens—forget and move on," said Raed Jarrar, Advocacy Director at DAWN. "No investigation conducted by Israeli officials about the responsibility of Israeli officials for the killing of an American journalist will have any credibility. The U.S. should also investigate if U.S. military aid contributed to this crime."