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Palestinian American Reporter Shireen Abu Akleh Killed in Israeli Raid in Jenin, “Brave” Truth Teller

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Israeli forces have shot and killed Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian American journalist working for Al Jazeera, as she covered an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp early Wednesday morning. Video released by Al Jazeera shows Abu Akleh was wearing a press uniform when she was shot in the head by what the network says was a single round fired by an Israeli sniper. “She gave voice to the struggles of Palestinians over a career spanning nearly three decades,” says journalist Dalia Hatuqa, remembering her friend and colleague. “Her killing is not an isolated incident. This has been happening for a long time: Israeli attacks against media workers, especially Palestinians, and the relative impunity under which they operate.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: A warning to our audience: We begin today’s show with a story that contains graphic footage.

Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have shot and killed Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian American journalist working for Al Jazeera, as she covered an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp early this morning, this according to the Palestinian Health Ministry and Al Jazeera. Video released by Al Jazeera shows the moments after Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the face.

A spokesperson for Israel’s army told a military radio station that Abu Akleh was likely killed by Palestinian snipers, though he offered no evidence. Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief said Shireen Abu Akleh was targeted by “direct shot” from an Israeli sniper. A second Palestinian journalist, Al-Quds reporter Ali al-Samudi, was hospitalized in stable condition after he was shot in the back. Speaking from a hospital in Jenin, al-Samudi said he was among four journalists pinned down by Israeli snipers.

ALI AL-SAMUDI: [translated] The occupation is murderous and criminal. They shot us for no reason. We, a group of journalists, were there wearing our full press uniforms, in addition to the helmets with the word “press” written on them in large letters, as big as the whole world. We were obvious.

AMY GOODMAN: In a statement, Al Jazeera said it holds the Israeli government and its military responsible for the killing, condemning it as a, quote, “heinous crime, which intends to only prevent the media from conducting their duty,” unquote. The U.S. ambassador to Israel called for an investigation, tweeting he was, quote, “Very sad to learn of the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” unquote.

For more, we’re joined by a dear friend and colleague of Shireen Abu Akleh. Dalia Hatuqa is a Palestinian American multimedia journalist who has extensively covered Palestine and Israel. She’s joining us from Amman, Jordan.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Dalia. Our deepest condolences on the death of Shireen. Can you tell us who she was and what you understand happened?

DALIA HATUQA: Thank you, Amy.

So, Shireen and I met many years ago in D.C. when we both worked for Al Jazeera. She was stationed at the Ramallah bureau, but she was seconded to the D.C. bureau for a bit. So, we instantly became friends.

Shireen was a Palestinian Christian from Jerusalem. She was very brave. She was a kind reporter. She had an infectious laugh. She gave voice to the struggles of Palestinians over a career spanning nearly three decades. During the height of the Intifada, she became a mainstay in every Palestinian home, to the extent that I recall Israeli soldiers going around Ramallah and mimicking her, shouting from their bullhorn her famous closing line, “Shireen Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera, Ramallah.”

My understanding is that she was on assignment in Jenin, like you mentioned. I just watched an extended video of the incident, wherein Shireen was wearing a vest that was clearly marked “press,” and she was wearing a helmet. I saw that the shot came through the back of her neck and out of her face. And she didn’t stand a chance. She didn’t have time to take cover. And I believe that only an experienced shooter could have made a shot like that.

My understanding is that the Israelis said that they are doing an investigation. I personally have no faith in any probe that’s done by the Israelis. Many people have died, and no one has been held accountable for their death. And perhaps this will be a bit different because Shireen is an American citizen. But that leads us to the question: Why is being an American way more worthy of a probe than any other Palestinian, really?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dalia, most of the world has been transfixed on what has been happening in Ukraine for the last several months, the Russian invasion there. But could you talk about what’s been happening in the Occupied Territories and the increased violence that has been occurring on the side of both, of the Israelis, in those territories?

DALIA HATUQA: Well, I mean, I wouldn’t say that there’s been an increase in violence, because violence is taking place every single day. There are home demolitions, demolitions of Palestinian homes, every day. Palestinians are being expelled from their homes every day. Settlements are being built. So, violence is kind of ongoing. The only reason you hear about extended violence is when Israelis are being killed. Neither Palestinians nor Israelis should be killed. I think there needs to be an end to that and the only way to end that is by ending Israel’s military rule of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But I want to circle back to Shireen for a second, because her killing is not an isolated incident. This has been happening for a long time: Israeli attacks against media workers, especially Palestinians, and the relative impunity under which they operate. And I believe that Human Rights Watch, Israeli’s premier human rights organization B’Tselem have all reached the same diagnosis, which is the reality that there is no accountability for these sorts of abuses when it comes to actions by the Israeli authorities. And, I mean, we recall, for example, the killings of two journalists by Israeli snipers who were covering the Great March of Return in 2018 and another two men who were maimed by Israeli sniper fire in 2019 and 2015, respectively.

And the last thing I will mention is the targeting and the bombing of buildings housing media in the Gaza Strip, including the Israeli air raid that destroyed the al-Jalaa building which housed Al Jazeera and the AP offices in May 2021. So these are not isolated incidents. And just the fact that there may be a probe is important, but at the end of the day, I don’t think me or any other Palestinian really has any hope that this probe will lead to justice being served for Shireen or any of the other journalists being killed.

AMY GOODMAN: Just this latest: The spokesperson for Palestinian Authority, Ibrahim Milhim, said his government rejects any role for Israel in an investigation into Shireen’s killing. He said, “Let me ask, when does the criminal have the right to take part in the investigation against his victim?” International Federation of Journalists have submitted — are going to submit Abu Akleh’s case to the ICC. And Anthony Bellanger, the secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, said Abu Akleh’s killing is a “deliberate systematic targeting of a journalist.”

A final question to you, Dalia. This is attributed to Reuters that there’s an investigation that’s going to be conducted, and Al Jazeera is saying that Israeli police have raided Shireen’s home in Jerusalem, in occupied East Jerusalem, and have confiscated Palestinian flags and prevented the playing of nationalistic songs. Videos seen by Al Jazeera show friends and family shouting at Israeli police to leave the house. A journalist at the scene said the mourners managed to push the forces outside the house but remain stationed in the area. I understand, Dalia, the funeral is tomorrow in Jerusalem. Is that right?

DALIA HATUQA: Correct. I saw that video, and I saw that Israeli police raided the area around Shireen’s home where people had gathered. People were gathering everywhere in Ramallah and in East Jerusalem. She worked in Ramallah, and her home was in East Jerusalem. They confiscated flags, like you mentioned. They prevented the playing of nationalistic songs. And my understanding is that tomorrow there will be a military — a military — what do you call it? Like a military funeral. Thank you. A military funeral from the presidential compound in Ramallah, and then she will be buried in East Jerusalem, where she was born. And my understanding is that today there will be some vigils and other gatherings by friends and loved ones in Ramallah.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Dalia, we thank you for being with us. Tomorrow on Democracy Now! we’ll bring you more on the story. Dalia Hatuqa, Palestinian American multimedia journalist who’s extensively covered Palestine and Israel, a friend of Shireen Abu Akleh.

Next up, we go to another journalist, to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, about the presidential elections in the Philippines. Stay with us.

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