RSF calls for independent inquiry into Al Jazeera reporter’s West Bank shooting death
Today’s fatal shooting of leading Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh as she covered clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin is a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and UN Security Council Resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF), calling for an independent international investigation into her death as soon as possible.
Witnesses said Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American, was killed by a shot to the head although she was wearing a bulletproof vest with the word “Press” that clearly identified her as a journalist. Ali al-Samudi, a Palestinian journalist working as an Al Jazeera producer who was beside her at the time, was also targeted, sustaining a gunshot wound in the back.
Samudi, who is now hospitalised, said in a video: “We were filming. They did not ask us to stop filming or to leave. They fired a shot that hit me and another shot that killed Shireen in cold blood.”
Following Abu Akleh’s death, Israeli security forces raided her East Jerusalem home as her family was making arrangements for her funeral.
Her body was transferred to Nablus for an autopsy prior to be taken to Jerusalem, where her funeral is expected to take place. She was very popular in the Middle East and was respected by fellow journalists for her experience in the field.
Al Jazeera issued a statement accusing the Israeli security forces of “deliberately” targeting Abu Akleh and of killing her “in cold blood.”
The Israel Defence Forces announced an investigation into her death, but IDF spokesman Amnon Shefler said Israeli soldiers "would never deliberately target non-combatants" while Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said there was “a considerable chance that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, were the ones who brought about the journalist’s unfortunate death.”
Several witnesses including an AFP photographer, denied seeing any armed Palestinians at the place where Abu Akleh was killed. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said he held the Israeli authorities “fully responsible” for her death.
“RSF is not satisfied with Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid’s proposal of a joint investigation into this journalist’s death,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “An independent international investigation must be launched as soon as possible.”
The shooting of these two Palestinian reporters during an IDF “anti-terrorist operation” in Jenin is the latest of many disturbing cases. Two Palestinian journalists were fatally shot by Israeli snipers while covering the weekly “Great March of Return” protests near the Israeli border in the Gaza Strip in the spring of 2018. Ain Media founder Yaser Murtaja was killed on the spot on 30 March 2018, while Radio Sawt al Shabab reporter Ahmed Abu Hussein died in hospital on 25 April 2018 from the gunshot injury he sustained on 13 April.
According to RSF’s tallies, more than 140 journalists have been the victims of violations by the Israeli security forces on Friday's marches since 2018, and at least 30 journalists have been killed since 2000.