On 11 May 2022, in the run-up to Nakba day, an independently-minded and extremely brave American-Palestinian journalist was murdered in a planned ambush by the Israel’s IDF assassins, who generally targeted the journalist section of a small crowd and specifically targeted her, Shireen Abu Akleh.
The day started out quite normally in Jenin on the occupied West Bank. Israeli ‘defence force’ (IDF) vehicles had made dawn raids on the refugee camp, chasing about trying to intimidate people or to spark a bit of stone-throwing from Palestinian youths. These regular raids very often ended in the death of a Palestinian youth, and there had been a return of fire at the IDF goons early on that morning, but by the time the journalists arrived (around 6.00am) a quiet calm had descended.
A convoy of five Israeli military vehicles were lined up about 200m away from a very small group of civilians at the entrance to the refugee camp. The group was joyfully excited at the sight of the journalists, and Shireen in particular, who had stood up as their voice on television screens for 25 years denouncing Israel’s savage aggression. She was, therefore, regarded as a heroine, a friend and truth-teller by the local people of all ages.
The journalists – Shireen Abu Akleh, Shatha Hanaysha, Mujahid al-Saadi, and Al Jazeera producer Ali al-Samoudi, who was wounded later in the gunfire – were wearing heavy blue flak jackets and helmets emblazoned with the word ‘PRESS’, so as to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who they were.
All friends, they followed their usual drill of standing in full sight of the vehicles for five to ten minutes, again to leave no doubt as to who they were, and when they walked forward, it was as a group. They had asked the crowd to stand back while they filmed their reports, and this request was adhered to.
When the firing started, Shireen dropped like a stone, hit in the head close by her ear through the gap between the helmet and the flak jacket. Her fellow Palestinian journalist, Shatha Hanaysha, who had joined the profession after watching Shireen as a child, crouched at her side in shock, trying to rouse her.
A man from the small crowd ran forward to help but was driven back by shots around his feet. Eventually, the fire subsided enough to allow Shireen’s body to be dragged away.
The Israeli military immediately claimed that it was not clear who had fired the fatal shot, claiming that there was a possibility Abu Akleh had been hit either by indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire, or by an Israeli sniper positioned about 200m (656ft) away in an exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen. Neither Israel nor anyone else has provided evidence of armed Palestinians with a clear line of fire to where Shireen was standing.
The United States government, the United Nations and many within the international community have all called for an independent probe into the killing of this 51-year-old American/Palestinian journalist, but CNN has led the way and carried out its own investigation. This has unearthed two videos of the scene of the shooting, both of which show that there was no active combat, nor any Palestinian militants, near Shireen Abu Akleh in the moments leading up to her death.
In fact, the footage shows a calm scene before the reporters came under fire. The videos obtained by CNN are corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, as well as by an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, all of which point unmistakably to the fact that Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.
A 16-year-old boy who was in the group on the street told CNN that there were “no shots fired, no stone-throwing, nothing” before Shireen was shot. He said that the journalists had told them not to follow as they walked toward Israeli forces, so he had stayed back. When the gunfire broke out, he said he ducked behind a car on the road, three metres away, from where he watched Shireen’s murder.
The teenager also shared a video with CNN, filmed at 6:36am, just after the journalists left the scene for the hospital, which showed the five Israeli army vehicles driving slowly past the spot where Shireen had died on their way out of the camp, obviously proud of a job well done.
There is a saying; Beauty is only skin deep. This, of course, only applies to physical beauty and it is not always correct then. Shireen Abu Akleh was a beautiful woman whose beauty came from her very soul, which could not tolerate the enslavement and cruel torment of her people.
Her beauty was in her clear voice that would clearly and precisely denounce the zionist oppressors of her people through TV sets in many nations. This is a beauty that will not die; that will not succumb to the cowardly assassin’s explosive bullet.
If the zionist entity found Shireen to be a thorn in its side, a voice too loud in exposing its inhumanity, it haA just turned the thorn into a lance and amplified the voice that tells of their many crimes a thousand times.
Shireen is still being listened to around the world – and this time she cannot be killed.
Note. Israel has killed 46 Palestinian journalists since 2009.
The Journalist in Jenin
Poem by Mosab Abu Toha
That thing in her hand isn’t a furled umbrella:
It’s the microphone that records sounds
of birds, of air, of shooting, of warplanes,
and of weeping mums.
That notebook that’s fallen from her pants pocket has
no shopping list
for her and her dog:
It has names and addresses of people to visit/interview
in the refugee camp.
That tree under which her body rests for minutes:
That tree isn’t protecting her from the rain
That opening near her ear, below the helmet isn’t for an earring:
It’s from where her blood trickled onto the dew-covered ground,
watered the tree. It’s from where her
soul clouded the camp, blinded the drones.
And the children, their eyes
welled with tears, and it rains
forever in Palestine.