Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, left an indelible mark on the world of journalism through her long and distinguished career. Born on April 3, 1971, she dedicated 25 years of her life to reporting as a correspondent for the Arabic-language news channel, Al Jazeera. Tragically, her life was cut short on May 11, 2022, when she was fatally shot while covering an Israeli military operation in the Jenin Refugee Camp, located in the West Bank.
Abu Akleh was celebrated not only for her fearless reporting but also for her role as a pioneering woman in the field of journalism, serving as an inspiration to aspiring Palestinian and Arab journalists, especially women. Throughout her career, she had become one of the most recognizable figures in the Middle East, earning respect and admiration for her dedication to covering events in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Who killed Shireen Abu Akleh?
The circumstances surrounding her death were shrouded in controversy. On that fateful day in May, she was donning a blue press vest while reporting on the Israeli raid in the Jenin Refugee Camp. Initial reports pointed to Israeli soldiers as the culprits responsible for her death, but Israel vehemently denied any involvement, instead placing blame on Palestinian militants. The conflicting narratives persisted until September 5, when Israel conceded that it was likely she was “accidentally” shot by its own forces, although it refused to initiate a criminal investigation. The admission followed investigations by international news outlets, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the US State Department, all of which held Israel accountable for her tragic demise.
Forensic Architecture, an investigative organization, challenged Israel’s claims and asserted that Abu Akleh had been intentionally targeted and subsequently denied medical assistance. This revelation further fueled the demand for justice. In November 2022, the US Department of Justice launched an investigation into her killing, a move met with resistance and condemnation from Israel, which refused to cooperate.
The circumstances surrounding her death were not the only point of contention. Abu Akleh’s funeral was marred by violence and disruption, drawing widespread international condemnation. During the procession, Israeli police officers used force against pallbearers carrying her coffin and assaulted medical staff at the Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem, where her body was taken. The Christian Churches of the Holy Land, representing 15 denominations, issued a statement decrying the actions of the Israeli police as a violation of international norms and regulations, including the right to freedom of religion.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended her funeral, which was marked by poignant displays of grief and a strong sense of national unity. It is believed to be the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem in over two decades, underscoring the profound impact of Shireen Abu Akleh’s life and the resonance of her tragic death.