Shireen Abu Akleh killing: Palestinian envoy to UK 'haunted' by lack of accountability

Shireen Abu Akleh killing: Palestinian envoy to UK 'haunted' by lack of accountability
4 min read
11 May, 2023
Shireen Abu Akleh was a 'special human being' and a friend, said Palestinian ambassador Husam Zomlot. He expressed his hurt at a year passing with 'no accountability' for her 'targeted assassination'.
Shireen Abu Akleh, killed by Israeli forces a year ago on Thursday, was a highly regarded journalist [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency/Getty]

Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot said he was "haunted" by the lack of accountability for the "targeted assassination" of Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday, the day before the first anniversary of her death.

Israeli forces killed the 51-year-old Al Jazeera journalist on 11 May 2022 while she was reporting on a raid on the occupied West Bank's Jenin refugee camp.

Palestinian American Abu Akleh was a "special human being" and a friend, said Zomlot. The Palestinian Authority (PA) diplomat expressed his hurt at a year with "no accountability" for her "murder".

"It feels very painful. It haunts you. And it makes you wonder about how are we going to leave a world for our children? What kind of a global system will we leave behind?" he told The New Arab.

"Does international law apply equally [to] everyone or it's just a toy in the hands of the powerful?

"Is the Palestinian life less worthy than other lives? Is our blood… a different colour? Why is it that when a Palestinian American citizen, [a] journalist, [is] murdered as such, we don't see an outcry and an immediate action?"

Zomlot said: "Israel gets away with murder – literally with murder – before Shireen and long after Shireen. Unless we create a system of complete accountability, alas this will continue."

Abu Akleh, who was shot in the head, was for years a highly regarded and well-known reporter. No one has yet been charged for her killing.

Zomlot said she was targeted in order to silence her voice.

Israel at first suggested Palestinian militants might have killed her but backtracked later on the day of her killing, saying it was too soon to say who had shot her.

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Eyewitness testimony and investigations by CNN and other media pointed the finger at Israel, with the American broadcaster saying evidence suggested she was killed in a "targeted attack by Israeli forces". A PA probe made similar findings.

Israel's military in September acknowledged it was "highly probable" a soldier shot Abu Akleh dead but asserted it wasn't deliberate. The US has also said this was "likely" the case.

However, an investigation by Palestinian legal rights group Al-Haq and British research agency Forensic Architecture found Abu Akleh and other journalists with her were "deliberately and repeatedly targeted, with the aim to kill".

Abu Akleh's family complained to the International Criminal Court in September, with Al Jazeera lodging new evidence in December.

Zomlot praised the pan-Arab broadcaster's correspondent for her dedication.

"Shireen was such a special human being. She was committed, devoted to her people, to her cause and to her profession," he said.

"She wanted to be a voice for her people. She wanted to be the messenger of the truth. She wanted to be the journalist she was and she wanted to be everywhere in Palestine.

"She wanted to follow every pain, every incident, every suffering, every oppression, so she [could] convey [them] to the world. And that was Shireen."

Many others have also been killed by Israel, which has engaged in "a lot of spin" about their deaths, Zomlot said, adding that they had faced "defamation".

"But Shireen's case is the case that hits everyone in the face. Shireen is an iconic figure and her murder and targeted assassination was right in front of cameras," he said.

"Shireen tells you that despite the clarity of the atrocities and the crimes and the intentionality of Israel, despite the fact that she was targeted for who she was, despite the world knowing what has happened, still we are far away from accountability."

An illustration of Shireen Abu Akleh with a dripping red bullet wound to the head. The accompanying text reads: "Journalism is not a crime. Shireen Abu Akleh, 1971-2022."

Abu Akleh was killed reporting on an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp. The cities of Jenin and Nablus have been hit especially hard by deadly Israeli army operations in the West Bank in 2022 and 2023.

The Euro-Med Monitor human rights group found the Israeli military killed 204 Palestinians last year, of which 90 lost their lives in the Jenin and Nablus provinces.

The data does not include 18 Palestinians "killed inadvertently during Israeli attacks", with 16 of these fatalities having occurred in besieged Gaza.

This year has continued to be devastating, with Israeli forces and settlers so far having killed 139 Palestinians across the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.