According to Al Jazeera, Abu Akleh and three other journalists came under fire from Israeli soldiers while reporting on an Israeli military raid of a refugee camp in the city of Jenin on the West Bank. The reporters were wearing vests and helmets, clearly marked as “press”. Abu Akleh was shot in the face and Al Jazeera producer Ali Samoudi was shot in the back. Abu Akleh was rushed to a hospital where she was declared dead. Samoudi’s condition is stable.
Shatha Hanaysha, who was among the group of journalists at the scene, reported that there had been no exchange of gunfire between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army. She also reported that the sniper fire did not stop even after Abu Akleh had collapsed.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a widely respected Palestinian journalist who has covered Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank for decades.
Al Jazeera has strongly condemned her killing, stating that Israeli soldiers deliberately targeted the group of journalists.
The Israeli military stated on Twitter that Israeli forces had shot back after coming under fire from Palestinian gunmen, who also hurled explosive devices toward Israeli soldiers.
Samoudi refutes this account, claiming there was no gunfire exchanged and that if there had been they would not have been reporting from the area.
“Accounts from those on the ground who were with Shireen Abu Akleh and who report that the Israeli army is responsible for shooting at a group of Palestinian journalists are extremely chilling”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said.
“This would not only be an egregious attack on the press, it would be tantamount to a war crime”, she added. “What must happen now is a full, immediate, and independent investigation with international involvement into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh to determine exactly what happened and who was responsible. Those responsible must be then held to account.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid offered to conduct a joint investigation into the killing with Palestinian authorities. Palestian officials have rejected this offer and instead called for an investigation of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Palestinian rights groups and journalists say the killing of Abu Akleh is part of a broader pattern by Israeli forces of deliberately targeting Palestinian journalists. Advocacy groups recently filed a formal complaint with the ICC alleging “systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists”, citing the killings of Ahmed Abu Hussein and Yasser Mortaja, who were fatally shot by Israeli snipers in 2018.