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ROME – The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has condemned the killing of a Palestinian journalist by Israeli forces.
“This blatant tragedy brings back to human conscience the need to find a just solution to the Palestinian conflict, which refuses to enter oblivion although 74 years have passed since the Nakba,” says a statement released by the Patriarchate on Thursday.
Nakba – meaning disaster – is the term used by Palestinians for the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Arabs following the Israeli War of Independence.
Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American veteran journalist of Al Jazeera, was reportedly killed by the Israeli army during the coverage of the army’s storming of Jenin refugee camp on the morning of May 11, in the occupied West Bank.
Eyewitnesses have said that the 51-year-old was shot in the face by a single bullet, despite wearing a press vest.
Abu Akleh was called “an example of duty and a strong voice for her people” in the patriarch’s statement.
The Patriarchate covers Latin Rite Catholics in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Cyprus and is headed by Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa, an Italian Franciscan.
Journalist Ali al-Samoudi was also injured, but he was able to cross the street and get to a point of safety. The patriarchate said it prayed for “the rest of Shireen’s soul,” and the recovery of the wounded journalist, as well as “for all journalists in the world who courageously perform their work.”
According to the Associated Press, Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, promised a transparent investigation, and said he was in touch with U.S. and Palestinian officials. The Israeli military initially suggested that Abu Akleh might have been killed by stray fire from Palestinians, but Gantz was more cautious Wednesday evening. “We are trying to figure out exactly what happened,” he said. “I don’t have final conclusions.”
“We ask for a thorough and urgent investigation of all the circumstances of her killing and for bringing those responsible to justice,” said the statement from the patriarchate.
Abu Akleh was a respected and familiar face in the Middle East, known for her coverage on Al Jazeera Arabic of the harsh realities of Israel’s open-ended military occupation of the Palestinians, now in its 55th year. She was widely recognized in the West Bank and was also a U.S. citizen.
News of her death resounded across the region, with many Arab governments condemning the killing.
Among those who have called for an independent and thorough investigation into what happened are Palestine, several U.S. lawmakers, and the White House press secretary, who called the late journalist a “reporting legend,” and her death a “tragic loss and an affront to media freedom everywhere.”
“We call for an immediate and thorough investigation and full accountability,” tweeted Jen Psaki.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, tweeted that he was “very sad” to learn about the journalist’s killing and called for “a thorough investigation into the circumstances.”
So far, 2022 has been one of the deadliest years for journalists: In Mexico, at least 11 reporters have been killed, three of them in the last week. In Ukraine, at least 14 civilian journalists and media workers have died reporting on the conflict.