[News] 'I was standing next to Shireen': Eyewitness account of killing of Al Jazeera journalist

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 11 14:46:52 EDT 2022


middleeasteye.net
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/shireen-abu-akleh-killing-al-jazeera-journalist-eyewitness-account>
'I was standing next to Shireen': Eyewitness account of killing of Al
Jazeera journalist
By Shatha Hanaysha in Jenin, occupied Palestine - May 11, 2022
------------------------------

*As told to Shatha Hammad
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/users/shatha-hammad> and Huthifa Fayyad
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/users/huthifa-fayyad>.*
[image: image.png]
Shatha Hanaysha stands outside Jenin's Ibn Sina Hospital after the killing
of Shireen Abu Akleh (Social media)

Before I went to bed last night, I was glued to my phone monitoring the
news of the Israeli <https://www.middleeasteye.net/countries/israel> army
ramping up forces near the Jalame checkpoint outside of Jenin, a Palestinian
<https://www.middleeasteye.net/countries/palestine> city in the occupied
West Bank.

I knew this meant a possible raid on the refugee camp, as has been the case
in recent months. I left my phone in general mode so any alerts would come
through, and decided to get a few hours of sleep to be ready in the
morning.

And just before six am, I received the call I knew was coming.

<https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-palestine-al-jazeera-journalist-shireen-abu-akleh-shot-dead-jenin>

"There’s a raid in the camp, do you want to cover it?" my colleague Mujahed
al-Saadi asked.

''Of course," I replied. I got ready and headed to Jenin from my home in
Qabatya town, a 10-minute car ride away.

When I arrived near the Return Roundabout, a major monument in the city
that leads to the camp, I put on my press helmet and body armour, as did
the other journalists with me.

Outside the camp, Jenin was a serene city. It was a normal morning, with
people walking and driving to work peacefully.

“There’s nothing to fear,” one passerby who came from the camp told us as
we put on our vests. “Barely anything is happening in there, it’s calm.”

Israeli forces had stormed the camp and surrounded the house of Abdallah
al-Hosari, who they killed on 1 March, to arrest his brother.

Before we advanced on foot towards the camp to cover the raid and a
subsequent gunfire exchange between Israeli troops and Palestinian
fighters, we had stopped to wait for Al Jazeera journalists.
A scene of chaos

Moments later, Shireen Abu Akleh arrived with her crew.

Here was the journalist whose reports I grew up imitating, from voice tone
to hand gestures, and I dreamt of doing what she was always so good at
doing. Here she was, going on the same missions as I was.

“Good morning,” Abu Akleh said, as she, myself, two more reporters, and two
cameramen got ready.

I felt a strange aura around her at that moment. I can’t find the right
word to describe what I felt. She was floating. She was happy.

We made ourselves visible to the soldiers who were stationed hundreds of
metres away from us. We remained still for around 10 minutes to make sure
they knew we were there as journalists.

Shireen Abu Akela was the journalist whose reports I grew up imitating,
from voice tone to hand gestures, and I dreamt of doing what she was always
so good at doing

When no warning shots were fired at us, we moved uphill towards the camp.

Out of nowhere, we heard the first gunshot.

I turned around and saw my colleague Ali al-Sammoudi on the floor. A bullet
hit him in the back but his wound was not serious and he managed to move
away from the fire.

A scene of chaos followed.

My colleague Mujahed jumped over a small fence nearby to stay away from the
bullets.

“Come over here,” he told me and Shireen, but we were on the other side of
the street and couldn’t risk crossing.

“Al-Sammoudi is hit,” Shireen shouted, standing right behind me, as we both
stood with our backs to a wall to take cover.

Right then, another bullet pierced Shireen’s neck, and she fell to the
ground right next to me.

[image: Shatha Hanaysha is seen next to the dead body of Al Jazeera
journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin (Reuters)]
Shatha Hanaysha is seen next to the dead body of Al Jazeera journalist
Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin (Reuters)

I called her name but she didn’t move. When I tried to extend my arm to
reach her, another bullet was fired, and I had to stay hiding behind a tree.

That tree saved my life, as it was the only thing obstructing the soldiers'
view of me.

“Stay back, stay back!” my colleagues shouted, as bullets flew every time I
tried to check Shireen’s pulse.

Out of nowhere a camp resident managed to get to us with a car from an
alleyway out of range from the Israeli soldiers. He quickly pulled me and
Shireen’s body in and drove us to the hospital.
'They aimed to kill'

I am still in shock.

What happened was a deliberate attempt to kill us. Whoever shot at us aimed
to kill.

And it was an Israeli sniper that shot at us. We were not caught up in
crossfire with Palestinian fighters like the Israeli army claimed.

There was no fighting at the time. The location of the incident was in a
relatively open area, away from the camp where Palestinian fighters can't
operate because they would be at a disadvantage there.

It was an Israeli sniper that shot at us. We were not caught up in
crossfire with Palestinian fighters like the Israeli army claimed

The type of gunfire is another indication. Palestinian fighters normally
use semi-automatic rifles that spray bullets continuously.

These bullets were different. They were sporadic and precise. They were
only shot when one of us moved. One bullet at a time.

I did not know this would be how my day unfolded but I had been preparing
myself to die for some time.

Jenin has come under intensified Israeli raids in recent months. With each
raid I went out to cover, I felt I would be killed.

Israel does not differentiate between the old and the young, men and women,
civilian journalists and combatants. Everyone is a target.
'Our jobs are more important than ever'

In the hospital we were all shocked. Journalists, medics, and Jenin
residents.

Like many other reporters, I was torn. Every time I put my phone up to film
my arm failed me. I wanted to do my job and document the scene but I also
wanted to pay respects to Shireen.

I remembered myself as a child watching her reporting on the TV during the
Second Intifada.

I was about seven years old at the time, and ever since then I knew exactly
what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be like Shireen.

I recall when my parents and grandparents would sit around in the living
room and say: “Shatha, go on, give us a Shireen-style report.”

When I told her this, and that she was my idol, in our first meeting a few
years back, she smiled and joked with me.

[image: Palestinian cameraman Mujahed al-Saadi mourns with other
journalists over the body of Shireen Abu Akleh (AFP)]
Palestinian cameraman Mujahed al-Saadi mourns with other journalists over
the body of Shireen Abu Akleh (AFP)

She was humble with me, kind, and sweet.

She came to Jenin a few weeks ago after years of not reporting from the
city. I went to greet her, not expecting she would recognise me, as she met
countless other young journalists in her career.

“How are you Shatha?” she said when she saw me, remembering my name, both
to my surprise and joy.

Stories like these are what most of us were probably remembering as her
body was carried around Jenin to be commemorated.

We finally arrived at the small monastery in the city and the church bells
began ringing for Shireen, who is from a Christian family from Bethlehem.

Around Shireen's corpse, we all stood as Muslims and Christians, listening
to the priest's prayer in silence.

When I looked around I saw multiple cameras filming. Behind each one was a
Palestinian journalist sobbing, knowing that Shireen will never be on the
other end of those lenses again.

As Palestinians and journalists, our loss is indescribable. But now more
than ever, our jobs are important.

To document the violations of this occupation, for our journalistic values,
for the truth, and for Shireen.
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