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Shireen Abu Akleh

Mourners hold posters with Shireen Abu Akleh's image during the funeral procession for the slain Al Jazeera journalist in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on May 12, 2022. (Photo: Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Abbas Vows ICC Probe, Says Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh Must Not 'Go Unpunished'

The Palestinian leader said that "we hold the Israeli occupation authorities totally responsible" for fatally shooting the Al Jazeera reporter as she covered an army raid in the occupied West Bank.

Brett Wilkins

As the funeral for slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh began Thursday in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he will turn to the International Criminal Court to seek justice for the Al Jazeera reporter allegedly shot dead by Israeli forces while working on Wednesday.

"They committed the crime and we do not trust them."

Speaking during Abu Akleh's state memorial in Ramallah, Abbas told thousands of mourners gathered at the presidential palace that "Shireen was a voice of truth, a national voice, conveying the suffering of the mothers of martyrs and prisoners, of Jerusalem, and of refugee camps. Abu Akleh was killed conveying the message of the Palestinian people."

Abbas said that "we hold the Israeli occupation authorities totally responsible" for the 51-year-old Palestinian-American reporter's killing, and that "this crime cannot go unpunished."

"They committed the crime and we do not trust them," the Palestinian leader said of the Israelis, adding that he would "turn immediately to the International Criminal Court to prosecute the criminals."

The ICC is already investigating alleged Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, and apartheid in the illegally occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

Abu Akleh—who was wearing a helmet and clearly marked press jacket—was fatally shot in the face by a sniper while covering an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank early Wednesday. Another Palestinian journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was shot in the back but is reportedly in stable condition.

Al-Samoudi said three shots were fired at them; the first round missed, the second bullet hit him in the back, and the third shot killed Abu Akleh.

As Al Jazeera condemned the well-known reporter's killing as "blatant murder," Israeli officials swiftly moved to blame Palestinian militants for her death before walking back the claim and saying it was unclear who fired the fatal shot.

According to The Times of Israel:

An initial autopsy of Abu Akleh's body by Palestinian coroners found that it was "not possible" to tell whether she was killed by Israeli or Palestinian gunfire.

Meanwhile, an initial internal IDF probe reportedly found that though she was likely standing near armed terrorists, Israeli troops did not fire at her.

Channel 12 reported that the bullet in question is a 5.56×45 mm NATO round, which is used by both Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists for weapons, including M16 and M4 assault rifles.

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released a video Wednesday casting doubt on the IDF's findings and claiming that "documentation of Palestinian gunfire distributed by [the] Israeli military cannot be the gunfire that killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh."

The Palestinian Authority is refusing to allow Israeli officials to examine the bullet that killed Abu Akleh and has dismissed Israel's calls for a joint investigation into the slaying.

Defending the Palestinian stance in an interview with Al Jazeera, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who is Palestinian-American, said it was unacceptable for "the same people committing those war crimes to do the investigation."

Officials from the United States, European Union, and various United Nations agencies are among those calling for investigations into Abu Akleh's death. Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur on Palestine, said Wednesday that her killing "may constitute a war crime."

Saleh Hijazi, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East program, told Vox that Abu Akleh's death fits "a pattern of unlawful killing, and also a pattern of targeting journalists and human rights defenders."

According to the Palestinian Journalism Syndicate, Israeli forces have killed more than 50 Palestinian journalists since 2001. During last year's Operation Guardian of the Walls assault on Gaza, the IDF bombed a media center hosting outlets including Al Jazeera, the Associated Press, and Middle East Eye.

In 2019, a U.N. Human Rights Council commission said it "found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot journalists intentionally, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such" during the Great March of Return demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border. Two Palestinian journalists, Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein, were killed by Israeli forces while covering the protests.

Abu Akleh—who was hailed by the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association as "full of grace, kindness, and... gentleness" and "one of the most renowned Palestinian voices in journalism"—is set to be buried Friday in her hometown of Jerusalem.

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