Nahed Araf Imran and her husband Jamal were exhausted but excited Wednesday morning: Nahed was in the east with their third child at a local hospital in Nablus, north of the occupied West Bank.
But when Jamals’s mother arrived at the hospital crying shortly before the couple’s daughter was born, he knew something was wrong.
I asked her what happened and she told me that Shireen Abu Aqleh had been shot dead by the Israelis. Shireen had visited us in our town, Bureen, and had covered the demonstrations here many times. Everyone knows him, said the 29-year-old construction worker.
My mother was broken. I said to myself when the baby comes we will call her Shireen and my wife agreed.
Shireen Abu Aqleh Jamal Imran came into the world around noon on Wednesday. At dawn that morning, her name, a 51-year-old Al Jazeera veteran journalist, was shot in the head and killed during an attack by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Israeli officials said they believed the dual Palestinian-American citizen had died after being hit by Palestinian fire during a quarrel between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.
But fellow reporters at the scene said there were no militants near the small group of journalists who all wore helmets and armor clearly marked as repression when they were attacked by the Israeli unit leadership. Ali Samodi, an Al Jazeera producer who was shot in the back, said this watchdog from his hospital bed that even after Abu Akleh had fallen to the ground and colleagues tried to reach him, bullets kept coming. The video of the incident confirms this version of the event.
Israel has flatly denied allegations that its soldiers deliberately targeted journalists, but the international community is seeking answers to what Qatar-based Al Jazeera has described as a cold-blooded assassination attempt.
Different from the killings of anonymous Palestinians taking place in the regularly occupied West Bank, Abu Aqleh was a well-known face, transmitting millions of people around the Arab world and known for her bravery during a 15-year television news career. She was also an American citizen. This time, an Israeli strategy e deviation and denial has refused.
What is seen by the Palestinians as Israeli unrest also threatens to ignite a wave of violence that has spread throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories since the end of March.
A video released by the IDF of what it said were Palestinian militants involved in a firefight in Jenin the morning Abu Aqleh was killed has been sharply criticized: the human rights group BTselem, which visited the two countries, revealed that it was impossible the shooting in the video distributed by IDF is the same firearm shooting that hit Abu Aqleh and Samodi.
And the spectacle of Israeli police attacking Abu Aqleh’s funeral procession in Jerusalem on Friday, causing its coffin holders to drop the coffin, has added to Palestinian and international outrage.
The public display of Palestinian flags in occupied East Jerusalem has been banned by Israeli authorities under no circumstances, but many mourners arrived waving Palestinian banners. The journalists ’archive was also wrapped in the flag, followed by an orange stretcher holding a tossed jacket marked with a print.
The EU said it was appalled by the unnecessary force used by Israeli police, while the White House described the footage of the scene as deeply disturbing.
Israeli police said mourners were disrupting public order by throwing stones at the large police presence, but on Saturday said an investigation into the officers’ actions would be launched.
I was horrified by what I saw on TV from the funeral. I think it shows how Shireen was exposed [Israel], she succeeded in this not only in life but also in death, said Imran. By not letting her funeral continue with respect, they are publicly exposed to see the world.
The battle of narratives ignited by the death of Abu Akhlahas is not over. Palestinian officials have rejected an Israeli offer of a joint investigation, saying the criminals could not be trusted, prompting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to accuse the Palestinians of denying Israel access to the basic findings required to reach the truth.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said during a state memorial to Abu Aqleh in the Palestinian city of Ramallah on Thursday that the case would be referred to the international criminal court, of which Israel is not a member and whose jurisdiction the state opposes.
An interim Israeli military investigation could not determine who fired the fatal bullet, an IDF statement said Friday, while an initial investigation by the Palestinian public prosecutor’s office revealed that the sole origin of the shootings was the Israeli occupying forces.
Meanwhile, even more than during her career, the fame of Abu Akhleh has grown. Outside the reporters’ house in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem this week, neighbors and friends gathered daily to mourn her death, despite a raid on the house Wednesday by Israeli forces: many have posted pictures of her in their windows . On the quiet street outside, local children gather waving Palestinian flags.
Shireen was a Christian and we are a Muslim family, but that did not matter, said a neighbor. She has united us.
For the thousands of people who have gathered along the West Bank and Jerusalem this week in honor, the life and death of Abu Aqleh has become a powerful symbol.
The story of Shireens is the story of the Palestinian people, said Imran, the father of the newborn Shireens. She will never be forgotten, especially for our family. Every time we call her name we will remember her.
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