The Global Killing Fields of Journalists: The Death of Shireen Abu Akleh (Part 1)


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

Dedicated Journalists Are the Foundation of a Solid, Democratic State[1]

The Assassination of American-Palestinian Journalist Ms Shireen Abu Akleh by precise, targeted shooting in the face by Israeli Forces.

14 May 2022 – Wednesday, 11th May 2022 will be recorded in the annals of international history as the darkest day, when democracy and a beacon of truth, in the form of an American-Palestinian female journalist, Ms Shireen Abu Akleh, were mercilessly annihilated and removed, as a symbol as well as a voice of hope, for the subjugated, oppressed and dehumanised people of the occupied State of Palestine, forever by the aggressive security forces of the Zionist Government of Israel. The death has highlighted the dangers journalists face while covering the Israeli-Palestinian, conflict, as well as other political turmoil, anywhere in the world.

Noting that this treacherous act of terminating a journalist, who reported for over 25 years and was an international voice for the sad lot of the Palestinians, the Israeli forces also attacked the unarmed, elderly and peaceful mourners while carrying the coffin of the victim at the funeral.  The Israelis security forces were behaving worse that an pack of wild wolves when confronted with a flock of sheep. As evidenced in many videos, shown on numerous international television channels, as to the fact that even in death there is aggression and violence practiced by the Israeli forces, in an unbridled manner.[2]  There is a saying, that the level of culture and civilization of any country or community is reflected in the manner in which they treat their dead.  The situation was so critical that when the Israeli police on Friday, 13th May 2022,  assaulted mourners at the funeral with batons, the attack, caused pallbearers to briefly drop the casket.  The Israeli police funeral attack campaign came as thousands of mourners attended the funeral of the Palestinian-American journalist, who was shot dead in West Bank while covering an Israeli military operation in the area. She was shot by Israeli soldiers without provocation. She was wearing a helmet and bullet-proof vest with PRESS clearly written on it. Some mourners at the funeral hoisted Palestinian flags and chanted “Palestine, Palestine”. The crowd said, “We die for Palestine to live. Our beloved home.”  They also sang the Palestinian national anthem.[3] The visuals seen on reputable, global television channels, worldwide, following the assassination of Ms Shireen Abu Akleh, undoubtedly confirm the base level of social evolution of the citizenry of Israel, who must bear collective responsibility for the ruthless, cold blooded killing of a female journalist, whose only crime was highlighting the truth about the atrocities committed by the Israeli forces, especially in recent months, both judicially and extrajudicially against the Palestinians, whose land they have occupied. Israeli-occupied territories refers to all of the lands that were captured and occupied by the Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967[4].

It is important to discuss the background of the deceased journalist, who was no ordinary reporter, for a small tabloid, or a local television channel. Shireen Abu Akleh  was born on 03rd January 1971and her life was mercilessly ended 0n  11th May 2022. She was a Palestinian-American journalist who worked as a reporter for the reputable and globally respected Arabic-language channel Al Jazeera for 25 years. Ms Abu Akleh was a household name across the Middle East for decades, of her reporting from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.[5]  On 11th May 2022, while wearing a blue vest with “PRESS” boldly emblazoned on it, she was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military raid on the Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank. Al Jazeera, an AFP photojournalist and the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that the Israeli Defence Force killed her.[6] Initial Israeli reports, blamed and suggested, in the customary manner, that a Palestinian might have killed her, but later press releases stated that the killer’s identity was as yet unknown. Abu Akleh was a leading journalist in the Arab world. Her career included reporting on major Palestinian events as well as analysing Israeli politics; her television reporting and distinct sign-offs were well-known, and she inspired many other Palestinians and Arabs to pursue careers in journalism. Interestingly, Abu Akleh was born in Jerusalem on 03rd January 1971, to a Palestinian-Arab, Christian family from Bethlehem.[7] She spent time in the United States, obtaining U.S. citizenship through members of her mother’s family who lived in New Jersey.[8]

Abu Akleh attended secondary school in Beit Hanina[9], then matriculated at the Jordan University of Science and Technology[10] to study architecture,[11] but decided not to pursue the trade;[12] she instead transferred to Yarmouk University in Jordan[13], from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. After graduating, Abu Akleh returned to Palestine,[14] a sovereign state,[15] founded on 15th November 1988.  Abu Akleh worked as a journalist for Radio Monte Carlo [16]and Voice of Palestine[17].  Ms Shireen also worked for the UNRWA[18], Amman Satellite Channel[19], and MIFTAH.[20] In 1997, she began working as a journalist for Al Jazeera[21], as one of their first field correspondents,[22] becoming well known as a reporter on their Arabic-language channel.[23] She lived and worked in East Jerusalem, reporting on major events related to Palestine including the Second Intifada[24] and additionally covering Israeli politics.[25] She often reported on funerals for Palestinians killed by Israeli forces.[26]

Abu Akleh’s career inspired many other Palestinians and Arabs to become journalists; her live television reporting and distinct signoffs were particularly well-known. After her death, The New York Times and NPR both described her as “a household name” among Palestinians.[27] The Times of Israel characterized her as “a veteran journalist, among Arab media’s most prominent figures”.[28] The BBC described her as being widely known and admired by both viewers and colleagues.[29]  At the time of her death, Abu Akleh continued in her role with Al Jazeera, until she was killed on a specific assignment.[30].  Furthermore, she had been studying Hebrew in order to better understand narratives in the Israeli media, and had recently gained a diploma in digital media.[31]

It is also important to objectively analyse the circumstances surrounding Ms Shireen’s, shooting to death, while on duty for Al Jazeera Arabic service.  On Wednesday, 11th May 2022, the Palestinian Health Ministry announced the death of Abu Akleh. She had been reporting on an IDF raid on a house when,[32] according to witnesses and Al-Jazeera, she was shot and killed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately targeting the victim.[33] Abu Akleh was present at a raid which the Israeli military stated was targeted at capturing “terror suspects”.[34] Al Jazeera said that Abu Akleh was shot in the head by the IDF,[35] and transported to Ibn Sina Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.[36] She was 51 years old.[37] Another journalist, Ali Samodi[38] of Al-Quds newspaper[39], was shot in the back but survived; two other Palestinians were transported to a hospital in moderate condition.[40] The Times of London reported that Abu Akleh was shot by a sniper. Shatha Hanaysha, a Palestinian journalist, said that she and a fourth journalist, along with Abu Akleh and Ali Samodi, had been pinned down by Israeli snipers, who did not cease firing even after Abu Akleh went down, preventing Hanaysha from pulling the victim in.[41]

According to the Israeli military, Palestinian militants had fired on IDF soldiers, after which the soldiers returned fire. The IDF released a video showing Palestinian gunmen firing in the Jenin camp, purportedly in the area where Abu Akleh was killed.[42] In the video a militant was heard saying “They [Palestinian militants]’ve hit one, they’ve hit a soldier, he’s lying on the ground.” As no Israeli soldiers were injured during the operation, Israeli authorities said it was likely the Palestinians had shot Akleh by mistake, thinking she was a soldier.[43] A Haaretz report found the possibility unlikely as several buildings blocked a direct line of sight between that militant and the reporter.[44]

Multiple eyewitnesses, including two journalists standing next to Abu Akleh, reported that the area had been relatively quiet immediately prior to her death and no Palestinians, civilian or otherwise, were present, disputing Israeli statements of her having died in a crossfire.[45] Al Jazeera reported that according to their Ramallah bureau chief, Walid Al-Omari[46], there was no shooting by Palestinian gunmen;[47] Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative also stated that there was “no exchange of fire” at the scene.[48] Al-Omari also stated that Abu Akleh had been wearing a helmet and was shot in an unprotected area under her ear, suggesting that this demonstrated she was “deliberately targeted”. Video of the shooting showed Abu Akleh wearing a blue flak jacket that was clearly marked “PRESS”. An Agence France-Presse photojournalist reported that Israeli forces had shot and killed Abu Akleh.[49]

An autopsy at An-Najah National University was unable to determine who shot Abu Akleh; the pathologist found no evidence that she had been shot at close range. The autopsy confirmed that Abu Akleh was killed by a bullet which struck her in the head, causing skull fractures and damage to the brain.[50] The bullet was recovered and sent for further examination.[51] Minister of Defence Benny Gantz said the IDF had requested the Palestinians to let the Israelis examine the bullet.[52] Israel also suggested a joint probe into the death, which was rejected by the Palestinian Authority on the grounds that it wanted an independent investigation, rightly so.[53]

The IDF later announced that it had begun investigating the possibility that one of its soldiers had shot and killed Abu Akleh, beginning inquiries in to three shooting incidents that involved its soldiers, with one of them occurring within 150 metres (500 ft) of where Abu Akleh was located at the time of the shooting. An IDF official said that this was “the more probable to be involved in the death” of the three being investigated.[54]

Al Jazeera reported that Abu Akleh’s home was raided by Israeli forces after she was killed, who confiscated Palestinian flags and prevented “the playing of nationalistic songs”.[55]  Al Jazeera additionally reported that thousands of people had gathered in Ramallah in honour of Abu Akleh, where her body was transported to the network’s offices for colleagues, friends, and family to “bid her the final farewell”. Alternative Syndicate of the Press journalists gathered to honour Abu Akleh in downtown Beirut. In her hometown of Beit Hanina, at least five Palestinians were injured in confrontations with armed Israeli soldiers, while at least three were detained; a crowd in front of her home protested her killing.[56]

Mourners carried Abu Akleh’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag and a blue press jacket.

The Palestinian Authority scheduled a state funeral procession to be held on May 12, 2022, in Ramallah, beginning at the Palestinian presidential headquarters. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, planned to attend. Abu Akleh’s body was transported from Jenin through Nablus and Ramallah to her funeral in Jerusalem.[57]

Abu Akleh’s funeral took place on Friday, 13th May, in East Jerusalem. Thousands of mourners attended, many carrying Palestinian flags. The procession began at the Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem but was interrupted when a group of mourners blocked the hearse’s path, insisting her body could be carried on their shoulders. Israeli police attacked mourners with batons and stun grenades, with her coffin nearly falling to the ground in footage broadcast by Al-Jazeera.[58] The Israeli police said they acted on the grounds of the crowd “disrupting public order”. Israeli police tried to prohibit the mourners from publicly displaying the Palestinian flag, but mourners were seen openly waving the flag and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” The police also said that stones were thrown at its officers. A video showed a police officer telling the crowd that “If you don’t stop these chants and nationalistic songs we will have to disperse you using force and we won’t let the funeral take place.”[59]

“Priests and friends mourn over the body of veteran Al Jazeera Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Wednesday, after she was shot dead as she covered an Israeli army raid on the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp.
Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

The coffin was later loaded on to a hearse and transported to the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin for the funeral, and from there carried on foot to the Mount Zion Cemetery where she was buried next to her parents.[60]

The European Union released a statement saying it was “Appalled by the violence in the St Joseph hospital compound and the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession.”[61]

The Israeli Defence Force in “wolf pack formation” attacks the pallbearers carrying the coffin, during the funeral of Assassinated Journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh’s Funeral, with no respect for the dignity of the Dead.

Al Jazeera described the killing of Abu Akleh as a “horrifying crime that breaches international norms” and was committed “in cold blood”. The network’s Managing Director Giles Trendle [62]stated that the network was “shocked and saddened” by her death and called for a transparent investigation.

President Abbas stated that he considered Israeli forces “fully responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death. Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister, wrote on Twitter that Abu Akleh had been “martyred by the bullets of the Israeli occupation”, adding that the “crime of silencing the word” had been “committed once again, and the truth is murdered by the bullets of the Israeli occupation”. Head of the Palestinian Mission to the United Kingdom Husam Zomlot described Abu Akleh as a “beloved journalist” and his close friend.

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett initially posted a tweet blaming the death on Palestinian gunmen, citing a video posted by the Israeli military. Human rights organization B’Tselem documented the exact location from which Palestinian militants depicted in that video had fired and the exact location in which Abu Akleh had been killed, observing that the two locations were hundreds of meters apart[63] and separated by multiple walls and buildings. The Washington Post verified the distance between the two locations. Later in the day, the Israeli military chief, Lt Gen Aviv Kochavi, said: “At this stage we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death.” In the evening Benny Gantz said “We are trying to figure out exactly what happened,” and “I don’t have final conclusions”, and promised a transparent investigation.[64]

According to Amos Harel, Israeli communications on the incident were overly hasty, and risked feeding suspicions of a cover-up. Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel told Israel Hayom he assumed Palestinian gunfire was to blame for her death.[65] According to Haaretz, Kochavi’s statement was made “before any offer was relayed to the Palestinians” and several hours passed before Foreign Minister Yair Lapid discussed the situation with senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh, who denied that any offer was made.[66]

The United States Ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said “I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.” US State Department spokesman Ned Price and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield both strongly condemned the killing. The former called it an “affront to media freedom everywhere” and said the perpetrators “must be held accountable”, while the latter called for a “thorough investigation”.[67]

Ms Shireen Abu Akleh as depicted in the giant mural, painted by a Palestinian artist, was an inspiration for a generation of Palestinian women journalists. [Mohammed Abed/AFP]

The Bottom Line is that the basic reason for the killings of journalists by the IDF, is that the Zionist Government wants to silence those who expose the violations of human rights of the Palestinians.  Israel continues its tyranny of occupation, dehumanization, brutal beatings, ruthless killing and maiming of children, women and elderly males, over the years with great impunity and absolutely no accountability for their unbridled actions. This is substantially aided by Western powers , directly or indirectly.  The support for Israel includes United States,  who provide military support and funding to maintain the Israeli Government in place to ensure the status quo in the Middle East.  Similarly, Britain also supplies ares, including the famous, British manufactured telescopic finders,[68] for the sniper rifles, which were used by the IDF during the Second Intifada.  These were deployed to shoot youth and maim them in the legs with shattering of the lower limb bones, often resulting in amputations.  It is highly probable that such a rifle was used by the IDF to assassinate Shireen Abu Akleh. Therefore, the cycle of vicious oppression and selective assassination of outspoken journalists continues, without any accountability and with great impunity, knowing fully well that the master is in the background and nobody dare say or do anything to contradict their masters.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 144 Palestinian journalists have been wounded by Israeli forces across the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem since 2018. In April 2022, the International Federation of Journalists filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing Israeli forces of systematic targeting of journalists.[69],[70] The director of RSF, Christophe Deloire, described her killing as a violation of the Geneva Conventions and United Nations Security Council resolution 2222 on the protection of journalists. He stated that RSF was “disappointed” with a proposal by Yair Lapid that Israel should participate in a joint investigation into Abu Akleh’s death, saying that “an independent international investigation must be launched” instead. [71] The Committee to Protect Journalists called for a “swift, immediate, and transparent investigation” into the killing, while the International Federation of Journalists condemned the killing “by Israeli troops” and called for an “immediate investigation”.[72] Amnesty International described it as a “bloody reminder of the deadly system in which Israel locks Palestinians” and called for an end to “unlawful killings” of Palestinians by Israeli forces. The Palestine Journalists Syndicate described the killing as “a clear assassination perpetrated by the Israeli occupation army”.[73]

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, deputy prime minister of Qatar, condemned what he called the “horrific crimes by the occupation against unarmed Palestinian people.” Deputy foreign minister Lolwah Al-Khater tweeted “state sponsored Israeli terrorism must stop” and “unconditional support to Israel must end.”[74] The foreign ministry of Kuwait issued a statement condemning what they described as the killing of Abu Akleh by Israeli forces; similar statements were made by the foreign ministries of Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Djibouti, China, and Iran.[75]

Locally, in South Africa, the mega businesses, retailer, banks, mining houses, universities, financial institutes and even places of worship of all religions, are all still controlled by Whites of Jewish origins, after 1994.  These South African Jews, as elsewhere,  have strong emotional ties and loyalties, as well as religious bonds with Israel.  Unsubstantiated information received indicates infiltration of Israeli Secret Service agents into the South Africa State Security apparatus, including airport security[76] and other governmental structures.  There was also a “hit” by Israeli agents, who stayed in a plush hotel in Dubai, with South African connection in 2010[77]

However, the South African Government has issued a statement condemning[78] the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) which has condemned the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, allegedly by the Israeli defence force.[79]  “The targeting of journalists in the occupied territories and in conflict zones like Ukraine and Afghanistan, appears to be part of a pattern of silencing the free press and is an outright contravention of international law. In a situation of occupation, protest action is one of the few ways in which Palestinians can make their voices heard. International human rights law obligates the occupying power to allow for the freedom of expression and protests,” Dirco director-general Zane Dangor said in a statement on Wednesday, 11th May 2022. Dangor added that “in other conflict zones, civilians and other non-combatants should be protected, in keeping with the principle of distinction and other protective measures of the Geneva Conventions.” [80]

In a personal e-mail received from a Rabbi in KwaZulu-Natal, when as to comment about the death of  Shireen Abu Akleh, by the author, the following response was received.[81]

“Dear Professor Vawda

I hope that this finds you well.

Shireen Abu Aqla’s death is indeed a tragedy.

Sadly, she is one of many journalists over the decades who have lost their lives covering international conflicts. The reality is that a flying bullet does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

In this particular instance, it is still unclear who fired the shot that killed Shireen.

What we do know is that her death occurred during a firefight between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin.

The IDF was carrying out arrest operations following a senseless terror attack in Elad.

Three Israeli civilians; Yonatan Havakuk age 44, Boaz Gol age 49 and Oren Ben Yiftah age 35 were brutally murdered by two from the area of Jenin.

I am saddened by reporting of certain news channels that have called this incident a deliberate killing of a journalist, certainly her death is a tragedy, however this kind of hate speech is not constructive.

Dr. Ryan al-Ali of the Pathological Institute at the a-Najah University in Nablus was quoted by al-Jarmak TV channel as saying that they could not determine who had shot her, following an initial autopsy of her body by Palestinian coroners.

At this stage the facts of the matter must be regarded as unconfirmed until a proper investigation is concluded. Israel has offered the Palestinian Authority a joint pathological investigation into the tragic incident.

Our thoughts and wishes of consolation go out to the family of the late Shireen.

Kind Regards”

The author was subsequently appraised, anonymously, that the above version, is the official communique sent out by the Israeli Government, for public distribution in foreign countries, regarding the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.  May her soul rests in peace.

Night Vigils:  Children participate in a vigil to condemn the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

In Part 2 of this publication, the author will discuss the killings of journalists, for political silencing, internationally, as major peace disruptions.


[1] Personal quotation by the author 2022.






[7] Abdulrahim, Raja; Hubbard, Ben (May 11, 2022). “Trailblazing Palestinian Journalist Killed in West Bank”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-433


















[25] Khoury, Jack (May 11, 2022). “Al Jazeera Reporter Killed, Another Journalist Wounded in Israeli Army Raid in Jenin”. Haaretz




[29] “Shireen Abu Aqla: UN chief appalled at Al Jazeera reporter’s killing”. BBC News. May 12, 2022







[36] Hammad, Shatha (May 11, 2022). “Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh shot dead during Israeli raid in the West Bank”. Middle East Eye






[42] “Al Jazeera reporter shot, killed during Israeli raid in West Bank”. CTVNews. May 11, 2022.

[43] “Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh killed covering Israel Defense Forces raid in West Bank”.












[55] Najjar, Farah; Al Tahhan, Zena; Uras, Umut; Alsaafin, Linah (May 11, 2022). “Thousands honour slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh”


[57] Atkinson, Emily (May 13, 2022). “Israeli forces attack mourners carrying casket of dead Al Jazeera journalist”. The Independent.



[60] “Israeli Police Attack Mourners Before Funeral for Shireen Abu Akleh”. The New York Times. May 13, 2022.



[63] “”. Twitter


[65] Amos Harel. ‘Killing of Palestinian Journalist Requires an International Probe – and Might Spark Escalation,’ Archived May 11, 2022, at the Wayback Machine Haaretz May 13, 2022








[73] Najjar, Farah; Al Tahhan, Zena; Uras, Umut; Alsaafin, Linah (May 11, 2022). “Thousands honour slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh”. Al Jazeera.








[81] Personal e-mail received by the author from a Rabbi in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, on Thursday 5/12/2022 3:07 PM.. as a response to a request for a comment from the Rabbi regarding the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh.


Read: Part 2 – Part 3

Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 May 2022.

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