Outrage and competing accusations are swirling in Israel after a prominent Palestinian Christian journalist was shot and killed in the West Bank during a confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis. Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera reporter who has become a household name throughout much of the Arab world, was covering unrest at a refugee camp in Jenin when she was shot in the head, while another journalist was shot in the back and survived.
Israelis and Palestinians accuse each other of shooting journalist
Born in Jerusalem, Abu Akleh was a member of the Palestinian Christian minority and a United States citizen who devoted much of her career to covering Israeli-Palestinian tensions.
Christians in Israel are sometimes stuck uncomfortably between opposing Muslim and Jewish interests, but Abu Akleh was generally well-respected and her employers at Al Jazeera report that she was learning Hebrew at the time of her death so that she could cover both sides more accurately.
Al Jazeera has also directly accused Israel Defense Forces of killing Abu Akleh, who was wearing a blue flak jacket with “press” prominently displayed when she was shot.
Palestinians agree with that claim; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared that she had been deliberately targeted by the Israelis and thousands of Palestinians gathered at a state funeral where she was treated as a national martyr.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett strongly denied the accusation, claiming that the killing could easily have been the work of a Palestinian militant.
Lt. General Aviv Kochavi, Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, offered condolences for Abu Akleh’s death but admitted that the IDF does not really know who was responsible.
Palestinians reject joint investigation
Israel has asked the Palestinian Authority to cooperate in a joint investigation into the shooting. The Palestinians rejected that request and have instead announced that they will arrange an independent investigation.
Still, there is reportedly some cooperation between investigators on both sides with mediation from the United States.
The initial autopsy and examination of the bullet conducted by Palestinian coroners found that it was impossible to tell who had fired the shot that killed the famous journalist, as both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants frequently use the same type of ammunition.
Clashes between the soldiers and the militants have been escalating since March, and unarmed bystanders caught up in the violence have already been killed on other occasions.
Shireen Abu Akleh is by far the most famous casualty, but 19 people have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in recent months and approximately 30 have been killed in Israeli operations, some of them civilians.
With tensions already high, Abu Akleh’s death could lead to even more violence and unrest if the two sides are unable to agree to an impartial investigation into the shooting.