Tributes to 'kind, devoted' Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh killed during raid in West Bank

The United Nations has called for an inquiry into her shooting, as Correspondent Neil Connery reports

Tributes have been paid to the "kind, dedicated, devoted" Al Jazeera journalist killed while reporting in the occupied West Bank.

Shireen Abu Akleh was covering an Israeli raid in the town of Jenin early on Wednesday morning when she was shot and died soon after.

Al Jazeera and the Palestinian health ministry have blamed Israeli forces for her death.

Nida Ibrahim, a correspondent and colleague of Ms Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank described her death as a "huge loss.

“She was kind, dedicated and devoted. She knew the story through and through and she understood the nuances," she said.

"She brought a wealth of information to her reporting."

Ms Abu Akleh's niece, Lina, said she was her "best friend, second mum, companion" and the "she was my everything."

Palestinian militants carry the body of Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist for Al Jazeera network, in the West Bank town of Jenin. Credit: AP

In video of the incident the Palestinian reporter, a regular on Al Jazeera's Arabic language channel, can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”

In a statement, Al Jazeera blamed Israel saying we "condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh."

The broadcaster said her death "violates international laws and norms" adding: "We pledge to prosecute the perpetrators legally, no matter how hard they try to cover up their crime, and bring them to justice."

Another Palestinian journalist working for the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper was wounded but is in stable condition.

Israel backtracks on claims

The Israel army initially raised the possibility that Ms Abu Akleh might have been killed by stray Palestinian fire, saying militants were also present in the area.

However, army chief lieutenant general Aviv Kochavi later stepped back from that assertion, saying that "at this stage, we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death".

The Israeli military had said its forces came under attack with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they fired back. The military said it was investigating “and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”

Mr Kochavi said a special team had been formed to investigate.

Israel released a video of Palestinian gunmen firing in an alley of the Jenin camp, later saying the video was meant to bolster its contention that Palestinians were firing in the area.

In response, the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released its own video casting doubt on those claims.

'No way' shot came from specified militants

The B'Tselem video was taken by one of its researchers who walked between the location of the militants in the video and where Abu Akleh was shot. It also provided coordinates for the two locations.

They appeared to be about 300 metres (330 yards) apart and separated by walls and buildings.

Dror Sadot, a spokesperson for the group, said its evidence shows “there is no way” that the gunfire shown in the video killed Abu Akleh. “There is no clear shot,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett noted that in the video, a militant is heard shouting that a soldier has been wounded.

Because no Israelis were hurt, he said that suggested the gunmen had shot a journalist instead.

Witness account

Ms Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on-camera from across the Palestinian territories.

Ali Samoudi, who was working as her producer, told The Associated Press they were among a group of seven reporters who went to cover the raid early on Wednesday.

He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly marked them as reporters, and they passed by Israeli troops so the soldiers would see them and know that they were there.

The first shot missed them, he said, then a second struck him, and a third killed Ms Abu Akleh. He said there were no militants or other civilians in the area - only the reporters and the army.

He added the military's suggestion that they were shot by Palestinian militants was a "complete lie."

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Strained relations with media

Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from in and around Jenin.

Israelis have long been critical of Al Jazeera's coverage, but authorities generally allow its journalists to operate freely.

Another Al Jazeera reporter, Givara Budeiri, was briefly detained last year during a protest in Jerusalem and treated for a broken hand, which her employer blamed on rough treatment by police.

Relations between Israeli forces and the media, especially Palestinian journalists, is strained. A number of Palestinian reporters have been wounded by rubber-coated bullets or tear gas while covering demonstrations in the West Bank.

A Palestinian journalist in Gaza was shot and killed by Israeli forces while filming violent protests along the Gaza frontier in 2018.