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Killing of 2 Palestinian journalists by Israeli forces condemned, independent inquiry called for
RAMALLAH: Israel faced international outrage and demands for an independent investigation on Wednesday after a veteran Palestinian-American journalist was shot dead in the occupied West Bank.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he was “appalled” by Wednesday’s killing of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh and called on “the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation into this incident and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable”.
Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, died after being shot in the head by a single bullet during an Israeli military raid on the outskirts of Jenin refugee camp.
Abu Akleh’s producer, Palestinian journalist Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back in Wednesday’s incident and taken to hospital, where he was in stable condition.
Israel initially blamed the shooting on Palestinian gunmen. “It seems likely that armed Palestinians, who were firing indiscriminately at the time, were responsible for the journalist’s unfortunate death,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
However, when witnesses came forward and video footage of the incident was released, Israel backtracked.
“At this stage, we cannot determine by what fire she was injured and we regret her death,” said army chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
Abu Akleh, born in Jerusalem but an American citizen, worked for the Al Jazeera network in Qatar. She was a respected and familiar face in the Middle East, known for her coverage of the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation since joining the network in 1997.
Samoudi, who survived his injury, told Arab News that there were no Palestinian gunmen in the area. He described how the press team marched down a street carrying their cameras and wearing bulletproof vests on which the “Press” sign was visible.
Samoudi said there were no pedestrians in the street, no firefights and not even stones were thrown at the troops.
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He said Israeli soldiers “suddenly opened fire” on them. “They didn’t ask us to leave and they didn’t ask us to stop. They shot at us. One bullet hit me and another hit Shireen. They killed her in cold blood.
Numerous videos that have surfaced on social media also show the absence of any violence when journalists were attacked.
The Palestinian Institute of Forensic Medicine at An-Najah National University in Nablus said the result of a post-mortem examination indicated that Abu Akleh had been hit by an explosive bullet that had penetrated his head and killed him. had killed instantly.
He confirmed that the bullet had caused a major laceration to the brain and skull, and that the weapon used was of high caliber. The deformed bullet is currently being analyzed in the laboratory to determine the weapon that fired it.
Israeli military forces massively target Palestinian journalists, shooting, killing, wounding, arresting or beating them, often breaking their equipment.
After mourners gathered at Abu Akleh’s home in Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem, Israeli police stormed the mourners’ camp, demanding that people disperse and stop playing songs. Palestinian nationalist songs and waving flags.
In New York, US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield called Abu Akleh’s death “truly horrific” and called for a transparent investigation. She said protecting American citizens and journalists was “our top priority.”
Thomas-Greenfield said Abud Akleh did “an amazing interview” with her in the West Bank last November. “I left there with extraordinary respect for her,” she said.
The UN human rights office has called for an “independent and transparent investigation into his assassination.” Impunity must end.
The White House has also called for a full investigation. “Investigating attacks on independent media and prosecuting those responsible are of paramount importance,” said deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
At the United Nations, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour, accompanied by representatives of the Arab League and the Arab Group of the UN, demanded an independent international investigation.
The EU demanded an “independent” investigation into the murder and Thomas Nides, the US ambassador to Israel, called for a “thorough investigation” into the murder.
The US State Department said Abu Akleh’s death was “an affront to media freedom”.
The Palestinian Authority said it held Israel “responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death.
The Qatari government, which funds Al Jazeera, condemned the killing “in the strongest terms”.
The Arab League condemned the shooting and blamed Israel. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called the murder a “heinous crime”.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said: “It is with sadness that we mourn the passing of the media knight and national press icon. Martyr Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by the bullets of occupation soldiers while performing her duty as a journalist to document the horrific crimes committed by occupation soldiers against our people.
“Whoever reported the news became the news itself,” was the top-trending hashtag on social media after the Abu Akleh murder.
Elsewhere, the Israeli army on Wednesday shot dead a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the boy died after being shot directly in the heart while near his school.