An Israeli saga:The Death of Shireen Abu Akleh and Al Jazeera

An Israeli saga:The Death of Shireen Abu Akleh and Al Jazeera
Photo by Vivien Fakhoury

Vivien Fakhoury

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Last week, Israeli ministers demanded Al Jazeera Media Network’s press credentials and operational license to be canceled in Israel. [1] Itamar Ben-Gvir, expected to become the National Security Minister, tweeted, “Al Jazeera is an anti-Semitic and false propaganda network that works against the State of Israel in the world. They should be expelled from the country today and the anti-Israeli campaign of lies should be stopped …” [2] This comes as a reaction to Al Jazeera submitting a case against Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for repeated attacks on the network, such as the May 2021 bombing of their Gaza office, but mainly for the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, Al Jazeera journalist. [3] Outgoing Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted, “It is unacceptable that Al Jazeera is suing Israel and preaching morality to us. It does not make sense that this body has the right to broadcast in the State of Israel.” [4]

On the morning of May 11, 2022, Shireen Abu Akleh was reporting on a raid in Jenin. Around 6:30 a.m., she was killed from a shot right under her ear, a spot that her helmet didn’t cover and despite wearing a vest with the word “PRESS” on the front and back. On the same day, while her family was mourning in their home, Israeli forces disrupted them by taking down their Palestinian flags and forcing them to turn off patriotic music. Throughout the journey of her casket from the hospital to the church, violence from Israeli forces followed that led to mourners dropping her casket and the hearse’s windows getting smashed. [5]

At first, Israel claimed that Palestinian “terrorists” shot Abu Akleh and released a video of a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants. This video has been debunked by various sources since the location seen in the video does not corroborate the evidence. [6] In September, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released a statement: “There is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.” [7] According to the video investigations there were no clashes in the immediate area where she was shot, Abu Akleh’s colleagues said they moved in a way that was typical for journalists to ensure that the forces knew they were PRESS, and given the precision of the shot many speculate she was killed intentionally. [8]

The United States, perhaps Israel’s closest ally, accepted this conclusion and encouraged Israel to review its conduct to prevent similar incidents. But in November, the FBI launched an investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing, due to international outrage and pressure from US Senators. [9] Israel refused to cooperate. Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, “No one will investigate IDF soldiers and no one will preach to us about morals in warfare …” [10] Similarly, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz tweeted, “The decision taken by the US Justice Department … is a mistake.” [11]

On December 6, 2022, Al Jazeera submitted a case against Israel to the ICC. Their statement reads, they “unearthed new evidence based on several eyewitness accounts, the examination of multiple items of video footage, and forensic evidence pertaining to the case,” which “show that Shireen and her colleagues were directly fired at by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). The claim by the Israeli authorities that Shireen was killed by mistake in an exchange of fire is completely unfounded.” [12] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s own investigation supports these findings. [13] The US rejects involvement of the ICC as it should be a court of last resort, but others argue Israel’s and the US’ findings will likely be biased, so this move is necessary. [14] Additionally, in March 2021, the ICC ruled that although Palestine is not an ICC member, the Court does have jurisdiction to investigate crimes against individuals. [15] Accordingly, Rodney Dixon, Al Jazeera’s lawyer, encourages the ICC to examine the evidence, investigate, and hold the individuals responsible accountable. [16]

Sources and Further Reading:

[1] Al Jazeera. (2022, December 7). Incoming Israeli minister calls for expulsion of Al Jazeera.; Middle East Monitor. (2022, December 7). Lieberman calls for Al Jazeera licence to work in Israel to be cancelled. 

[2] Ben-Gvir, I. (2022, December 6). @itamarbengvir. Twitter. 

[3] Al Jazeera. (2022, December 7).

[4] Lieberman, A. (2022, December 6). @AvigdorLiberman. Twitter. 

[5] Gathmann, S. (2022, May 18). The killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh | Start Here. Al Jazeera. YouTube. 

[6] Gathmann, S. (2022, May 18); Saifi et al. (2022, May 26). 'They were shooting directly at the journalists': New evidence suggests Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in targeted attack by Israeli forces. CNN. 

[7] Israel Defense Forces. (2022, September 5). Press Release: Final Conclusions of Shireen Abu Akleh Investigation. 

[8] Gathmann, S. (2022, May 18); Saifi et al. (2022, May 26).

[9] Abu Akleh, L. (2022, July 27). Op-ed: The U.S. must end Israel's impunity and investigate my aunt's killing. The Washington Post.; Mahoney, R. (2022, November 14). Op-ed: The US must fight for press freedom: even against its closest allies. The Hill.; Senator van Hollen, C. (2022, June 23). Press Release: Van Hollen and 23 Senate Colleagues Call for Direct U.S. Involvement in the Investigation of Shooting Death of American Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. 

[10] Middle East Monitor. (2022, December 7).

[11] Gantz, B. (2022, November 15). @gantzbe. Twitter. 

[12] Al Jazeera Media Network. (2022, December 6). Press Release: Al Jazeera refers Israeli Occupation Forces to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over Shireen Abu Akleh’s Killing. 

[13] United Nations News. (2022, June 24). Abu Akleh shooting: fatal shot came from Israeli forces, says OHCHR. 

[14] Al Jazeera. (2022, December 6). US opposes Al Jazeera’s push to take the Abu Akleh case to ICC.; Ekin, A. (2022, December 6). Al Jazeera takes the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh to the ICC. Al Jazeera. 

[15] International Criminal Court (ICC). (n.d.). Information for Victims: State of Palestine. ICC. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from 

[16] Ekin, A. (2022, December 6).