Al Jazeera Shireen Reporter Abu Akleh Killed: Latest Updates

Credit… via Agence France-Presse

JERUSALEM — Shireen Abu Akleh originally studied to be an architect but couldn’t see a future for herself in the field. So she decided to pursue journalism, becoming one of the best-known Palestinian journalists.

“I chose journalism to be close to people,” she said in a short video shared by Al Jazeera shortly after she was shot dead in the West Bank on Wednesday. “It may not be easy to change reality, but at least I was able to bring his voice to the world.”

A Palestinian American, Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, was a familiar face on Al Jazeera, where she spent 25 years reporting, making a name for herself amid the violence of the Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada, which convulsed Israel and the occupied territories. West Bank as of 2000.

He was shot in the head in the West Bank city of Jenin, Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Health Ministry said, blaming Israeli forces for his death. The Israeli army said Twitter that “Palestinian gunfire” might have been responsible.

Mohammed Daraghmeh, the Ramallah bureau chief of the Arabic-language news outlet Asharq News, who was a friend of Ms Abu Akleh for many years, said she had remained committed to covering all issues affecting Palestinians, large and little ones.

He had last spoken to her two days earlier, she said Wednesday, telling her he didn’t think the events in Jenin were important enough for a journalist of his rank to cover.

“But she went anyway,” he said. “She covered the story the way it should be done.”

It wasn’t the bigger or political stories that interested Abu Akleh the most, but the smaller ones that showed how people lived, said Wessam Hammad, an Al Jazeera news producer who worked with her for 17 years. He said that she would see a story where others would not see her.

“Sometimes I would say, ‘No, Shireen, forget it, it’s not a great story,’” he said. “But she was always thinking of so many different angles about how we could do it, and how we can make it into a very human and moving story about the Palestinians that no other journalist would think of doing.”

Credit…Hazem Bader/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Born in Jerusalem to a Catholic family, Ms. Abu Akleh studied in Jordan and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She spent time in the United States when she was younger and became a US citizen through a family on her mother’s side, who lived in New Jersey, friends and colleagues of hers said.

Al Jazeera said that after graduating from university, he worked for various media outlets, including the Voice of Palestine radio and the Amman satellite channel, before joining Al Jazeera in 1997. He soon became a household name among Palestinians. and Arabs throughout the Middle East, inspiring many to continue on his path.

Her live television reporting and signatures became iconic to those who wanted to emulate her, said Dalia Hatuqa, a Palestinian-American journalist and friend of Ms. Abu Akleh.

“I know of a lot of girls who grew up basically standing in front of a mirror and holding their hairbrushes and pretending to be Shireen,” Ms Hatuqa said. “That’s how enduring and important his presence was.”

Among them was his 27-year-old niece, Lina Abu Akleh. When she was a child, she would take her aunt’s written reports and recite them on her pink Barbie phone.

“I always told her, ‘I don’t know if I have the courage and strength that you have,’ and she said it’s not easy, it’s very hard work,” said Lina Abu Akleh.

His death also illustrated the dangers Palestinian journalists face in their work, whether in the occupied West Bank, Gaza or inside Israel, he said.

In a 2017 interview with the Palestinian television channel An-Najah NBC, he was asked if he was ever afraid of being shot.

“Of course I get scared,” he said. “At a specific moment you forget about that fear. We do not throw ourselves to death. We go and try to find where we can stand and how to protect the team with me before we think about how I’m going to get on the screen and what I’m going to say.

The Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to Britain, Husam Zomlot, called her the “most outstanding Palestinian journalist.”

Credit…Hazem Bader/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Abu Akleh family became widely known in Palestinian society thanks to Mrs. Abu Akleh.

“Everyone knows who Shireen is,” said her cousin, Fadi Abu Akleh. “Every time I introduce myself, people ask me, ‘How does Shireen relate to you?’”

He lived in Ramallah, the West Bank and Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, she lived with her brother and her family, including two nieces and a nephew, to whom she was very devoted, her cousin said.

“She was my best friend, my second mother, my traveling companion,” said Lina Abu Akleh. “She was my everything.”

Their last trip together was to New York to spend the Christmas holidays with relatives in the United States.

Ms. Abu Akleh recently spent several weeks in the United States and returned to Ramallah about a month ago. But it seems that she never seriously thought about living in the United States, Daraghmeh said.

Al Jazeera once sent her to the United States to work. After three months, she returned to Ramallah.

“When he came back, he said, ‘I can breathe now. Everything in the US is technical and complicated,’” recalled Mr. Daraghmeh. “’Here life is simple. I love Palestine. I want to stay here.'”

A state funeral procession will be held in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, departing from the presidential headquarters and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in attendance, according to the president’s office.

She will be buried on Friday in Jerusalem in a cemetery next to her mother.

“Shireen was a pioneer,” said Ms. Hatuqa. “I am sad that she will not be here to continue leading this industry.”

Raja Abdulrahim reported from Jerusalem, and ben hubbard from Doha, Qatar. Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Nazareth, Israel. kitty bennett contributed research.

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