Israeli forces have shot dead Al Jazeera’s journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
She was hit by a live bullet on Wednesday while covering Israeli raids in the city of Jenin and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, according to the ministry and Al Jazeera journalists. Abu Akleh was wearing a press vest when she was killed.
She was declared dead at the hospital, the ministry said.
Another Al Jazeera journalist, Ali Samoudi, was also wounded after being shot in the back. He is now in a stable condition, and said that there were no Palestinian fighters present when the journalists were shot, directly disputing an Israeli statement that referenced the possibility.
“We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming,” said Samoudi. “The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen … there was no Palestinian military resistance at all at the scene.”
Shatha Hanaysha, a Palestinian journalist who was present next to Abu Akleh when she was shot, also told Al Jazeera that there had been no confrontations between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army, and said that the group of journalists had been targeted.
“We were four journalists, we were all wearing vests, all wearing helmets,” Hanaysha said. “The [Israeli] occupation army did not stop firing even after she collapsed. I couldn’t even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots. The army was adamant on shooting to kill.”
The circumstances of Abu Akleh’s death are still emerging, but videos of the incident show that she was shot in the head, said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim.
Abu Akleh, who was a joint Palestinian-American citizen, was one of Al Jazeera’s first field correspondents, joining the network in 1997.
The Israeli military said that it had come under attack with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they fired back. It added that it was “investigating the event”.
Fatah, the party of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, condemned Abu Akleh’s killing.
“Targeting Shireen is a clear targeting of the truth, and [Israel] wants to cover its crimes against the Palestinian people,” said Osama al-Qawasami, Fatah’s spokesman. “Israel wants to send a message to journalists around the world that the fate of whoever wants to cover the truth will be shot and killed.”
Yair Lapid, the Israeli foreign minister, said that Tel Aviv was offering a “joint pathological investigation” into Abu Akleh’s “sad death”. He added that “journalists must be protected in conflict zones”.
Al Jazeera’s offices in the Gaza Strip, which also housed the Associated Press, were bombed by Israeli forces during an offensive a year ago, and Palestinian and international journalists say they have been regularly targeted by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.