Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based television network, has accused Israel of killing Shireen Abu Akleh, one of its reporters, during a gun battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin, a West Bank town.
Abu Akleh, 51, was rushed to a hospital in critical condition after she was shot in the head during the shooting.
According to The Guardian, the Palestinian American had been covering a military raid in a northern town and a nearby refugee camp, a historical flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, before her death.
Al-Jazeera claimed Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and body armour clearly marked ‘press’ when she was shot by Israeli forces.
“In a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine,” the television network said on Wednesday.
Shatha Hanaysha, a journalist for Quds News Network who witnessed the incident, said: “I could have been directly shot too. Even after she fell to the ground, the fire did not stop and none of us were able to reach her. A guy was finally able to reach us; he helped me and started pulling her.
“We were a group wearing press gear, and Shireen was even wearing the helmet. So it is obvious that the one who shot her meant to hit an exposed part of her body. This is an assassination.”
An Israeli military statement has however claimed its troops only retaliated after coming under fire in Jenin. The statement also said that there was a possibility that a few reporters might have been hit by shots fired by Palestinian gunmen during the exchange.
“People in the Jenin camp also hurled explosive devices toward the soldiers, endangering their lives. The soldiers responded with fire,” the Israeli foreign ministry also said.
Naftali Bennett, Israel Prime Minister, claimed there was a considerable chance that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, were the ones who brought about the journalist’s unfortunate death.
The Palestinian health ministry confirmed Abu Akleh’s death and said a second reporter, Al Jazeera producer Ali Samodi, was wounded.
“We were there to cover the events in Jenin camp. All of a sudden [the Israelis] opened fire at us; they didn’t ask us to leave or stop. The first bullet hit me, the second one hit Shireen … There were no resistance fighters around us. If there were, we wouldn’t have been in that area,” Samodi said from the hospital.
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