Veteran Al Jazeera journalist shot dead in West Bank.


Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead in a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank in the early hours of Wednesday morning during clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinian gunmen. Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab cable news network based in Qatar, hit out at Israel for “deliberately targeting and killing our colleague,” and referred to Abu Akleh’s death as an “assassina[tion] in cold blood”. But Israeli military and government officials said it was “likely” Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian militants who at the time were firing on Israeli forces “wildly and indiscriminately”. Abu Akleh, 51, was in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank reporting on an Israeli military raid and the ensuing clashes. She was wearing an armoured flak jacket clearly marked ‘Press’ when she was struck. The city of Jenin and its adjacent refugee camp have over the past month been the focus of a large Israeli military operation after a spate of Palestinian attacks in Israeli cities that have claimed the lives of 19 people since late March. At least 30 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces across the West Bank in the same period. Two Palestinian journalists, who were with Abu Akleh at the time, said they had come under fire from Israeli forces when she was shot in the head. She was critically wounded and pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly after. Al Jazeera producer Ali Samodi was also injured by live fire in the incident. Palestinian officials quickly blamed Israel, with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas alleging that Israel deliberately targeted journalists and that he held “the Israeli government fully responsible for this heinous crime”. The Israeli military, in a statement, denied that it had targeted journalists and said its forces had come under fire from dozens of armed Palestinian gunmen who also deployed explosive devices. “The soldiers responded with fire toward the sources of the fire and explosive devices. Hits were identified,” the military said. Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said he was saddened by Abu Akleh’s death, but added that according to information gathered by Israeli authorities so far “it appears likely that armed Palestinians — who were indiscriminately firing at the time — were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist”. Israeli officials called on the Palestinians to conduct a joint investigation, including pathological and ballistic tests, to ascertain which side was responsible, but claimed that this had been rejected. Israel’s military chief, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, was less definitive than the prime minister as he announced the launch of an investigation that he said would “clarify the facts and present them in full and as soon as possible”. “At this stage, it is not possible to determine by whose fire she was harmed,” Kochavi added. The US state department condemned Abu Akleh’s killing and demanded that an immediate investigation be launched, saying in a statement that “those responsible must be held accountable. Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere.” Abu Akleh was a highly regarded and well-known Palestinian-American journalist who had been covering the region for almost three decades, in particular the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Her death has prompted outpourings of grief on social media from Palestinian, Israeli and foreign journalists who knew her. “She covered so many tragedies, she lost her parents, yet her smile was constantly there, her laugh infectious. She danced, had fun, partied, loved to travel, despite all the hardships she’d seen and encountered personally,” Palestinian journalist Dalia Hatuqa wrote on Twitter.