Statement on the Murder of Palestinian Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli Forces

Issued by the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality

May 13, 2022

On Wednesday, May 11, an Israeli occupation sniper fatally shot the esteemed Palestinian journalist and news correspondent for Al Jazeera media network Shireen Abu Akleh. Shireen was murdered as she reported on the occupation’s assault on a Jenin refugee camp in the Occupied West Bank. She wore a helmet and vest clearly signifying her status as a news correspondent. Colleagues who witnessed her murder stated that she was shot behind her ear where her helmet did not cover, proving the murder was deliberate.

Her colleague, Ali Samoudi, who was shot in the back, witnessed her death. He explained that only Israeli soldiers were in the vicinity, not Palestinian fighters or civilians. The two journalists were filming the Israeli military raid on the refugee camp when a sniper first shot Samoudi and then Shireen. Shatha Hanaysha, another of Shireen’s colleagues, was the closest person to her as she was murdered. Shatha reported that “We were four journalists, we were all wearing vests, all wearing helmets. The occupation army did not stop firing even after she collapsed. I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots. The army was adamant on shooting to kill.”

Regarding Shireen’s murder, former spokesperson for the Israeli occupation armed forces Avi Benayahi commented, “Let’s assume Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by the army. No need to apologize for that.” 

To try and deflect the mounting international criticism, other Israeli officials stated that there was no evidence that the bullet came from an Israeli sniper and instead accused Palestinians of assassinating her.

After Shireen was slain, Zionist forces raided her family’s home and demanded that her brother detail the plans for her funeral procession. The occupation dictated that no Palestinian flags, chants or walking procession would be permitted. As Shireen’s body was transported from the hospital to be laid to rest in a Christian cemetery in Occupied East Jerusalem, occupation forces stormed the hospital courtyard and threw sound bombs inside the grounds. The forces stormed her procession and asked the attending mourners if they were Christian or Muslim. If they were Muslim, they would not be allowed in the cemetery. As the Israeli soldiers continued to raid the event, they brutalized the mourners carrying her casket, causing it to fall. Palestinian flags held by mourners were also confiscated.

Since 2000, the Israeli occupation has killed 55 journalists. During the siege on Gaza in May of 2021, Israel bombed the local office of the Associated Press. According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (MADA), in 2021 the Zionist occupation forces committed 368 violations against Palestinian journalists in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank. These violations include injuries from physical violence, preventing media coverage, arrests and administrative detentions, confiscation of equipment and more. 

The empty words of U.S. politicians condemning Shireen’s murder mean nothing as the United States continues to fund the occupation at the rate of $3.8 billion a year and provide Israel with political coverage on the international arena for these crimes against humanity. 

The Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality express our most sincere condolences to the family of the martyred Shireen Abu Akleh and the mourning Palestinian people, and we urge our friends and allies to be aware of the manipulative reporting on and dehumanization of Shireen by the mainstream media designed to absolve Israel of its crimes.

Self-determination for the Palestinian people!

Stop all U.S. aid to Israel!

U.S. Out of the Middle East!

Stop the Wars at Home & Abroad!

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