Prominent Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh shot dead by Israeli bullet to the head


“It is not easy to change reality, but I was at least able to carry these voices to the world,” assassinated correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh said in a previous interview about her 25 years of reporting on Palestine. On May 11, she was shot dead by an Israeli bullet to her head, sending waves of grief and rage across those who followed the Palestinian cause. Image by alwatan_live, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This article was first published by Raseef22 on May 11, 2022. An edited copy is republished by Global Voices as part of a republishing partnership.

The news of renowned Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh's murder by a bullet to the head fired on May 11 by Israeli forces sent waves of grief and rage across the Arab world and beyond, amidst calls for an end, once and for all, to crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians as a whole, and journalists specifically.

Shireen's assassination in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, while reporting the Israeli army's incursion into the city, was mourned by millions across the globe.

Eyewitnesses said that the Al-Jazeera correspondent was wearing a press vest and a helmet, in a strong indication that she had been targeted by sniping in the head in the visible part of the helmet — under the ear.

In a video that went viral on Twitter, Shireen's colleague who was with her in the field, said:

My fellow journalists and I gathered at a point very close to the (Israeli) army. We readied ourselves, putting on all our gear – the helmets, the shield. We waited for Shireen to come, along with another colleague. I was there first with another colleague. We made ourselves visible to the army. We then advanced a few metres, and were shot at.

And he added: “After the shooting took place, we tried to relieve Shireen as much as we could. The occupation targeted Shireen while she was wearing a helmet. The injury was under the ear… The occupation was adamant on killing us through snipers.”

Al-Jazeera producer Ali Al-Samudi, who was standing near her, was also hit by a bullet in the back that was fired by an Israeli soldier.

Shireen, whose professional reporting and an iconic face and name have been a reliable source of information on Israeli aggressions and violations committed against Palestinians in the West Bank, died on site as medics and her own crew were prevented from reaching her immediately by the heavy gunfire.

Condemnation and grief

In a statement, Al Jazeera network denounced “the tragic murder that violates international laws and norms” committed by the Israeli occupation against its reporter, pointing out that “this heinous crime is intended to prevent the media from carrying out its message.”

Emphasizing that Abu Akleh was wearing a press jacket when shot at by soldiers of the Israeli occupation, the network held the Israeli government and the occupation forces responsible for the killing of the journalist, calling on the international community to “condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for their deliberate targeting and killing of Abu Akleh.”

The military targeting of press is a frequent practice by the Israeli army as it vies to silence accounts of its brutality and crimes. Exactly a year ago, on May 11, 2021, an Israeli airstrike targeted and destroyed a high-rise building that housed offices of the Associated Press in the Gaza Strip despite what the AP report described as “repeated urgent calls from the news agency to the military to halt the impending attack.” AP called the strike “shocking and horrifying.”

Commenting on Shireen's execution, the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) network wrote: “Journalists, both male and female, who perform their role and their work in peace, are targeted by the Israeli occupation because they convey the truth.”

Mourning the loss of Shireen, the network stressed that she “has always been the voice that brought Palestine to every home.”

Palestinian journalist Christine Rinawi wrote that Shireen “rises as a martyr after covering hundreds of martyrs’ funerals. Sherine is a big name in the world of journalism. Sherine is a great heart. Sherine is a mentor in humanity, respect and ethics before journalism.”

‘Voice of Palestine’

Born in 1971 in occupied Jerusalem, Abu Akleh held a BA in Journalism and Media from Yarmouk University, Jordan. She was one of the first generation of field correspondents for Al-Jazeera in Palestine, as she joined the channel in 1997, one year after its launch. Before joining the Qatari network, Abu Akleh worked for Palestine Radio and Amman Satellite Channel.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Shireen covered and reported to the world Israel's assaults and attacks on the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.

In a previous interview, Abu Akleh said about the danger she faces while covering dangerous places, specifically during the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in 2002: “In difficult moments I overcame fear. I chose journalism to be close to people. It is not easy, perhaps, to change reality, But I was at least able to get that voice out to the world.”

In another interview with Al Jazeera, Abu Akleh said that the Israeli occupation has always accused her of photographing security areas, expressing her constant feeling that she is being targeted and that she is in confrontation with the Israeli occupation army and armed settlers.

One of the moments in which she had the most impact, Shireen recounted, was her visit to Ashkelon Prison where she saw the condition of Palestinian prisoners, some of whom spent more than 20 years behind bars.

‘Eyes on the truth’

In an article published by Egypt's independent Mada Masr, Sahar Mandour, a Lebanese-Egyptian novelist and journalist wrote:

على مرّ حياتها الراشدة، شيرين نقلت الخبر كاملًا من موقع حدوثه على الأرض. ولما صارت هي الخبر، وصلنا أيضًا كاملًا، دقيقًا، لا لبس فيه، ومن موقع حدوثه على الأرض.

Throughout her adult life, Shireen reported the news in full and from the ground as it unfolded. And when she became the news, we saw it also in full, accurate, no mistake about it, and from the ground.

On her Facebook page, Mandour wrote: “Israel killed Shireen Abu Akleh because Shireen harmed it. From the first day she stood in front of the camera and carried the world to the heart of Palestine, she launched the plan to assassinate her. Over the decades and wars, from the intifada to today, we trusted Shireen, and we walked with her on the hills and between the trees, we conquered the neighborhoods of the villages and we swept the streets of the cities with our eyes. We saw Palestine through her, and we saw the occupation closely, eye for eye, with her.”

She concluded: “Her assassination is a shock, of course, but it is the result of an organized crime. It is not by accident or by mistake, but by a decision and an effective action. Israel killed one of the heroines of Palestine.”

Researcher at the Palestinian Masarat Center, Razi Nabulsi, wrote on Facebook:

In every corner, in every house, there is a TV, in every corner, in every house, there is tears today. In every Palestinian home, we cry, Shireen Abu Akleh – Palestine.

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