Palestine: Impunity persists two years after the Israeli army’s murder of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Two years after the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank, and a year after Israel's official apology acknowledging its responsibility, justice has yet to be delivered for the emblematic Al Jazeera journalist. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this impunity and calls on the international community, especially the United States, to exert pressure on the Israeli army to answer for Abu Akleh’s killing. 

Two years have passed since the Israeli army killed one of the region's most emblematic Palestinian journalists on 11 May 2022. 

Four months after Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead while covering a raid in the West Bank, an Israeli army investigation admitted that there was a "high probability" that she had been "accidentally hit" by Israeli fire, while stating that it had no intention of bringing criminal proceedings against the soldiers involved. A year later, in May 2023, Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari declared that the army was "deeply sorry about the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.” Since then, despite several independent investigations proving that an Israeli soldier shot the journalist, who was clearly identified as a news professional, this crime has gone unpunished.  

Although journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was also a US citizen, the US Security Coordinator (USSC) only visited the site of the shooting and did not pursue an independent investigation, basing its conclusions on those of the Israeli army and the Palestinian Authority, as well as a ballistics report. A Department of Justice investigation is apparently underway but progressing very slowly with no visible signs of progress.

“The past two years have been very painful for our family and we shouldn’t have to wait another year without justice. We have had no response from the International Criminal Court (ICC), to which we have lodged a complaint to investigate this heinous crime. Israel continues to refuse to cooperate with the criminal investigation launched by the United States. An apology - which was not really an apology - is not accountability. Accountability requires action. Journalism is not a crime, but targeting journalists is. The impunity enjoyed by Israel is still evident today in the assassination and targeting of other journalists in Gaza. We continue to hope that the United States will conclude its investigation as soon as possible and that those responsible for Shireen's murder - from the soldier who pulled the trigger to the highest echelons of the chain of command - will be held to account.

Lina Abu Akleh
Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece

In May 2022, the family filed a complaint with the ICC. In December of the same year, Al Jazeera also filed a formal complaint with the ICC for war crimes, with the support of RSF. 

"The heinous crime committed two years ago against Shireen Abu Akleh, with complete impunity, is an important chapter in the story of Israel's relentless attack on the Al Jazeera channel, which has just been banned from broadcasting in Israel. And while more than 100 Palestinian journalists, including at least 22 in the line of duty, have been killed by the Israeli army since 7 October 2023, the same pattern of impunity persists. This pattern endangers the lives of journalists throughout the world and the public's right to free, independent and pluralistic information. RSF reaffirms its commitment to the family of Shireen Abu Akleh and continues to call for justice for all Palestinian journalists killed by the Israeli army.

Jonathan Dagher
Head of RSF's Middle East Desk

On 11 May 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh and her colleagues from Al Jazeera had set up camp near the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank to cover an ongoing Israeli raid, in full view of the army. Clearly wearing press vests and helmets attributed to journalists, Shireen was shot and killed during a time when there was no ongoing exchange of fire, corroborating the allegation of deliberate murder. 

The fight against impunity for crimes committed against Palestinian journalism

Two years after her death, journalism in Palestine is being stifled by Israeli forces. Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza on 7 October, more than 100 journalists have been killed in Gaza, including at least 22 in the course of their work. Three of them worked for Al Jazeera, whose offices in East Jerusalem were closed on 5 May 2024 following a unanimous vote by the Israeli government. 

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