[On 11 May 2022, Israeli Occupation Forces shot and killed Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shereen Abu Aqleh as she was covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in Jenin. To discuss the killing, its context, and the response to it, Mouin Rabbani, Editor of Quick Thoughts and Jadaliyya Co-Editor, interviewed Dalia Hatuqa, an independent journalist who specializes in Palestinian-Israeli affairs.]
Mouin Rabbani (MR): What do we know about the circumstances of the killing of Al-Jazeera’s veteran Palestine correspondent, Shereen Abu Aqleh?
Dalia Hatuqa (DH): Shereen was on assignment in Jenin in the occupied West Bank and she was covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp there when she was killed. I watched an extended video of the incident, it’s very graphic and it’s extremely sad but it showed that Shereen was wearing a vest that was marked “PRESS” and that she was wearing a helmet and the shot came through the back of the neck and out of the face. I believe that only an experienced shooter could have made a shot like that. Israeli authorities have been circulating a video of Palestinian men shooting down an alleyway and they’re saying that Palestinian fighters were responsible for her death. But researchers from renowned Israeli human rights group B’tselem found that the spot where this clip was filmed was 300 meters away and there was no line of sight to the sight where Sherene was killed, proving that the video had nothing to do with her death.
MR: Has Israel accepted responsibility for her killing?
DH: No, of course not. They would never accept responsibility for something like that because they have killed with impunity before. And I would say more than 90% of their investigations or probes into killings that have involved journalists have proved futile and they have not yielded any results. And if anything they tried to blame it on Palestinian fighters and then they backtracked when B’tselem and other journalists came out and said that the trajectory of the bullets did not make sense and did not align with the footage that they were sending out to accuse Palestinians of killing one of their own.
MR: What has been the international response to this killing, and what do journalists like yourself demand of the international response?
DH: Shereen was an American citizen and honestly the American response was lackluster. I know there was more condemnation than the usual times when Palestinian-Americans are killed, I saw that the US ambassador to Israel asked for a thorough investigation, I saw that the US State Department said something, I saw that the Europeans, the UK had said something. But again, they are all asking for an investigation by Israel. And Israel is the culprit. So how do you expect the entity that is behind this to conduct a fair assessment of what had happened? It does not make any sense. And for me, as a journalist, I not so much care about the international response, what I want is an international probe. To have somebody who can come and check the ballistics—basically a ballistics expert—because they took out fragments of a bullet from her body when they did the autopsy and that’s what we need to find out.
MR: Was Shereen’s killing an isolated incident or part of a wider pattern of Israeli violence and abuse against Palestinian journalists and the press corps in Palestine more generally?
DH: No, this is not an isolated incident. The killing of Shereen has cast a spotlight on the high rate of Israeli attacks against media workers and the relative impunity under which they operate. And like I said earlier, this is according to human rights groups. The journalist that was with her, her name is Shaza Hanaisheh, she said they were in an exposed area with other journalists and there were no confrontations or shots being fired by Palestinian fighters. And if we look at the past, I mean just the past few years there were the killings of Ahmad Abu Hussein and Yaser Murtaja who were fatally shot by Israeli snipers while covering the Great March of Return protests in Gaza in 2018. And two others were maimed in 2015, 2019, it happens. It happens all the time. And we also should not forget that there is the targeting and bombing of buildings housing media like in May 2021 when an Israeli air raid destroyed the eleven-story Al Jalaa building which housed Al Jazeera and AP, so this is not an isolated incident.
MR: Shereen was a legend and icon among Palestinian journalists and Palestinians more generally. Can you describe her significance as a journalist, Palestinian, and colleague?
DH: Yeah, I would like to talk about Shereen’s legacy. I mean, Shereen was not just any journalist, she was a trailblazer. She paved the way for a lot of women journalists to cover war. She was among the first to cover war and peace in the aftermath of the 1993 Oslo Accords. And then she joined Al Jazeera in 1997 during its inception. And like I said, she became a household name because she was so down to earth, she was so cool, calm, and collected in the field. And basically, she made her way into people’s hearts very easily. She was humble but she was also such a kind person. She loved life, she loved to party, she loved to laugh. I am not sure what more to say, honestly. It is a huge loss not just for her family, not just for me, not just for Palestine, but for everybody who saw her and who talked to her and who brought her into their homes. And that includes most people in Palestinian towns, villages, refugee camps, she was everywhere. And she did all the stories nobody wanted to do. And she gave voice to the people who otherwise we would not have heard from.