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Slain Al Jazeera Journalist Was Icon Of Palestinian Coverage

“I was able to convey the people’s message and voice.”Not long before her killing by Israeli occupation forces, Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh spoke about her career and what it meant to her to report on the occupation. pic.twitter.com/mUTmXJA9cA— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 11, 2022 An Al Jazeera correspondent who was shot dead…


“I was able to convey the people’s message and voice. “

Not long before her killing by Israeli occupation forces, Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh spoke about her career and what it meant to her to report on the occupation. pic.twitter.com/mUTmXJA9cA

— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 11, 2022

An Al Jazeera correspondent who was shot dead on Wednesday during an Israeli raid in the West Bank was a highly respected journalist in the Middle East whose unflinching coverage was known to millions of viewers.

News of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death reverberated across the region. The 51-year-old journalist became a household name synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under occupation during her more than two decades reporting in the Palestinian territories, including during the second intifada, or uprising, that killed thousands on both sides, most of them Palestinians.

Abu Akleh was a trending name on Twitter in Arabic Wednesday, sparking support for the Palestinians. As mourners flooded Al Jazeera offices in Ramallah and her east Jerusalem family home, her image was projected above the main square of the West Bank city.

Al Jazeera witnesses, including her producer, who was also shot in the back, claimed that she was killed by Israeli gunfire. Israel claimed that it wasn’t clear who was responsible and called it “premature” and “irresponsible” to assign blame at this stage. Later Wednesday, Benny Gantz, Israeli Defense Minister, promised transparency and stated that he was in touch U.S. officials and Palestinian officials.

Abu Akleh’s reporting on the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation was closely tied to her experiences as a Palestinian journalist at the frontlines. Her death underscores the heavy price the conflict continues to exact on Palestinians, regardless of their role as journalists.

Although she was also a U.S. citizen who often visited America in the summers, she lived and worked in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, where those who knew her said she felt most at home. She is a Palestinian Christian, whose family hails from Bethlehem. She was born in Jerusalem and raised there. She is survived by her brother and her parents.

In an Al Jazeera video released last year, Abu Akleh recalled the scale of destruction and “the feeling that death was at times just around the corner” during her coverage of the second intifada, from 2000-2005. She said that despite the dangers, she was determined to complete the job.

” I chose journalism to be near the people,” she said. “It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I was able to communicate their voice to the world.”

Abu Akleh joined Al Jazeera in 1997, just a year after the groundbreaking Arabic news network launched. Among her many assignments were covering five wars in Gaza and Israel’s war with Lebanon in 2006. She reported on forced home evictions, the killings of Palestinian youth, the hundreds of Palestinians held without charge in Israeli prisons and the continuous expansion of Jewish settlements.

Her longtime producer, Wessam Hammad, said Abu Akleh possessed an incredible ability to remain calm under pressure.

“Shireen worked all these years with a commitment to the values and ethics of our profession,” he said of Abu Akleh, who the network called “the face of Al Jazeera in Palestine.”

He and Abu Akleh were often caught in Israeli cross-fire during the many stories they covered together, he said. Their car was filled with tear gas, and they were unable to breathe. He said that Abu Akleh would chuckle and marvel at the way they survived when they think back to these times.

Images of the moments after Abu Akleh was shot in the head on the outskirts of the Jenin refugee camp circulated online and were broadcast on Al Jazeera and other Arabic news channels. Abu Akleh was seen lying on her back in a patch sand with a helmet and vest clearly marked “PRESS”. As gunshots rang out, an Arab man leapt over a wall in order to reach Abu Akleh’s body and dragged her limp body to a vehicle.

A male colleague of Abu Akleh’s was seen crying at her hospital bed while others cried. This was from the West Bank hospital. As she reported from the vigil for Abu Akleh, a female correspondent for Al Jazeera Gaza Strip wept.

Later Wednesday, Abu Akleh’s body, draped in a Palestinian flag and covered by a wreath of flowers, was carried through downtown Ramallah on a red stretcher. Hundreds chanted, “With our spirit, with our blood, we will redeem you, Shireen.”

An outpouring of condemnation came from governments around the world. The U.S. State Department called her death “an affront to media freedom.”

In an opinion piece published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, columnist Gideon Levy praised her bravery, saying “Abu Akleh died a hero, doing her job,” and noted that she went to Jenin and other occupied areas that Israeli journalists “rarely if ever visited.”

It had started as another routine assignment for Abu Akleh. She’d emailed colleagues that she was heading to the Jenin refugee camp to check on reports of an Israeli military raid. She wrote, “I will send you the news as soon the picture becomes clear.”

“Generations grew up seeing her work,” producer Hammad, said. “People listened to Shireen’s voice and were influenced by her to study journalism so they could be like her.”

Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, described her as a “best friend” and “second mom”.

“She is someone that I was looking up to since I was a kid, watching all of her reports,” she told journalists from the family’s home. “I never thought this day would come where the news would be about her.”

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Follow Aya Batrawy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ayaelb

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