Family of US-based Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was brutally assassinated by the Israeli regime forces, continues to seek justice a year after the tragic incident.
Abu Akleh, a veteran of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network's Arabic service, was shot in the head by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022 while standing with a group of journalists near the entrance of the Jenin refugee camp and reporting on an Israeli raid on the camp, which borders the Jenin municipality and is the northernmost camp in the West Bank.
On May 26, 2022, Palestinian Attorney General Akram al-Khatib confirmed the results of a preliminary investigation released a few days after her demise, insisting that Abu Akleh was struck with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a semi-automatic rifle Ruger Mini-14 while she was wearing a helmet and a vest clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”
A year later and ahead of the first anniversary of her assassination, Shireen's elder brother, Anton, recounted his reaction once he heard about the grim news.
"It was very shocking. You could never imagine something like this. It was a very disturbing, sad day. I was away and I couldn't believe it until I got to Jerusalem. It was very painful," he told Turkey's official Anadolu news agency in a video call.
Over the past year, Anton and his family have been striving to do two of the most difficult things at once, to heal from a harrowing personal tragedy and seek justice for someone they deeply loved, Anadolu added.
“All the facts point to the Israelis, to those soldiers who were present at that time. All the evidence shows that she was targeted. Shireen had her flak jacket, her helmet had press written on it on both sides. She was standing with media people, with the press, with her colleagues, and yet they shot 16 bullets toward Shireen. Even the person, the young man who tried to help Shireen, was shot at,” Anton further said.
This is while the Israeli regime has not yet acknowledged that the veteran journalist was intentionally shot dead by Israeli troopers, initially saying she was hit during crossfire between Palestinians and the Israeli army.
Results of a so-called probe by the Israeli military said in September last year that it was “not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire,” but admitted there was “a high possibility” that Shireen was “accidentally hit” by Israeli soldiers.
However, it reiterated that “another possibility” was that Shireen “was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen.”
The Tel Aviv regime's claims in exonerating its soldiers have been refuted not only by Anton and the Abu Akleh family but by Al Jazeera, the news organization where Shireen spent 25 years, and investigations by a UN panel and other rights groups.
Anton further said that the quest for justice has been a challenge and “a big financial burden” for the family. He, however, emphasized that they "are still fighting."
Since Shireen was also a US citizen, her family approached the US government and met Secretary of State Antony Blinken last July, some two weeks after a report by the US Department of State sided -- as usual -- with the Israeli regime, claiming that the killing was not deliberate and that it was only a possibility that Israeli military gunfire was responsible for her death.
The report said investigations overseen by the US Security Coordinator “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet” that killed Shireen, concluding that gunfire from Israeli military positions was “likely responsible” for her death, but “found no reason to believe that this was intentional.”
The report enraged the Abu Akleh family, saying that US President Joe Biden administration was "skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by the Israeli forces."
“We, the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, write to express our grief, outrage and sense of betrayal concerning your administration’s abject response to the extrajudicial killing of our sister and aunt by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022, while on assignment in the occupied Palestinian city of Jenin in the West Bank,” the family said in a letter at the time, which was also addressed to Blinken.
“Your administration has thoroughly failed to meet the bare minimum expectation held by a grieving family - to ensure a prompt, thorough, credible, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation that leads to true justice and accountability for Shireen's killing,” the letter further read.
The family sought to meet with Biden but the meeting was never allowed.
“We were hoping to meet President (Joe) Biden. Unfortunately, we couldn’t. We conveyed our message through Secretary Blinken, and we informed him that the … report released on July 4 was not accepted,” Anton further told Anadolu.
“We told him there was a crime committed and we want you to treat it as any other crime. There should be a credible and transparent investigation," he added.
According to Anton, no Israeli official has ever reached out to the family over the assassination.
“We didn’t speak to any Israeli official and they didn’t try to speak to us. Israel has to first recognize that this was an intentional killing … We don’t know how they came up with something called ‘unintentional’ or ‘mistake.’ Even when there is a mistake, someone should pay the price,” he said.
More than 50 US lawmakers have so far called for an investigation into the crime. Over 100 leading artists from across the world have also condemned Israel’s killing of Abu Akleh, demanding accountability for the regime’s crimes.
The International Criminal Court has already opened an investigation into possible war crimes by Israel in both the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip. However, Israel does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction and has called the war crimes probe unfair and anti-Semitic.
The previous findings by the Associated Press, CNN, New York Times, and Washington Post, as well as the office of the UN human rights chief, among others, also established the fact that the senior journalist was murdered by the Israeli regime forces.
The Israeli sniper shot three rounds of bullets, including an initial six bullets followed by seven more which killed the 51-year-old Palestinian journalist and then three more to stop efforts to rescue her.
Eyewitnesses and journalists who were with Abu Akleh on the day she was shot also described the shooting as a “deliberate attempt” to kill journalists.
Abu Akleh's tragic death sent shock waves across the region, drawing global condemnation. The United Nations and the European Union, among others, called for a full investigation into what has been described as a deliberate murder “in cold blood.”