It is the sad reality of life under occupation that, most mornings, Palestinians wake up to the news that Israel is arresting or killing their people.
Today was another one of those devastating mornings.
Palestinians were shocked by the news that veteran Palestinian journalist and Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
Abu Akleh was a Palestinian icon whose familiar face and voice had entered the homes of millions of Palestinians and Arabic speakers around the world for more than two decades, while covering the Israeli occupation.
She was one of the brave Palestinian voices who covered Israel’s deadly incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in 2002, which she wrote about last year, saying:
“For me, Jenin is not a short-lived story in my career or even in my personal life. It is the city that can lift my spirits and help me fly. He embodies the Palestinian spirit that sometimes trembles and falls but, beyond all expectations, rises to pursue its flights and dreams.”
Now, 20 years later, Abu Akleh was assassinated in the very place where she so bravely told the stories of Palestinian resistance under occupation for so many years.
The journalists deliberately attacked
The videos that have surfaced of the moment Abu Akleh was shot are chilling. The piercing screams of his colleagues echo on the screen as Abu Akleh, still wearing his helmet and blue bulletproof vest marked with the words “PRESS”, lies face down near a tree.
A young Palestinian from the area manages to jump a fence and get his body to safety, while shots ring out in the background.
According to journalists stationed around Abu Akleh, the group was clearly marked as press and made itself known to Israeli forces in the area.
Despite his clear press markings, Abu Akleh was shot in the face and another Palestinian journalist was shot in the back.
Despite Israeli claims that Abu Akleh was hit by Palestinian fire, journalists present at the scene say it was an Israeli sniper who attacked them.
Abu Akleh’s murder is devastating, but not surprising.
For decades, Israel has attacked Palestinian journalists covering the Occupied Palestinian Territory, killing dozens of reporters and injuring and jailing hundreds more.
The killing of Abu Akleh immediately brings back memories of our colleague. Yasser Murtajaa young Palestinian journalist in Gaza who was shot dead in 2018 by Israeli snipers while covering the Great March of Return protests.
Murtaja, like Abu Akleh, was also clearly marked as press and was killed while wearing his blue bulletproof vest.
The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq found that during the Great March of Return protests, Israeli forces deliberately directed Palestinian journalists with live fire.
As journalists covering the occupied West Bank, we have become accustomed to Israeli attacks on us. When covering demonstrations or clashes in the West Bank, journalists are often shot with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.
Where Israeli aggression against journalists is not lethal, it can lead to life-threatening injuries and lifelong disabilities. In 2019, Palestinian journalist muath amarneh he lost his eye after Israeli forces shot him with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
According to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967, an estimated 86 Palestinian journalists have been killed. More than half have been killed in the years since 2000.
Between 2020 and 2022 alone, PJS says six Palestinian journalists were killed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli impunity will continue
It is devastating enough to know that Abu Akleh is not the first Palestinian journalist to be killed by Israel, but it is even more distressing to live knowing that it will surely not be the last and that justice for her and her family is only a distant dream, unlikely to ever once it is achieved.
Any expression of “sadness” or calls for an “investigation” into his death by Israel or any of its supporters, including the United States, is just hot air and certainly not expressed in good faith.
Israel’s propaganda machine is already working in overdrive to deflect and re-allocate blame.
The government is circulating unverified videos, claiming that it was in fact Palestinian gunfire that killed Abu Akleh; this despite countless witness testimonies from journalists at the scene claiming that they were stationed far away from Palestinian fighters, and that it was Israeli gunfire that killed her.
The Israeli government has already positioned itself as a benevolent figure, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying that it “has asked the Palestinians to conduct a joint pathological analysis and investigation, which would be based on all existing documentation and findings, in order to to get to the truth. Until now, the Palestinians have rejected this offer.”
But how can Israel be expected to carry out a proper investigation when it has already cleared itself of the crime?
We have seen these same tactics used over and over again. In the few cases where Israel launches an investigation into the murder of a Palestinian, those “investigations” are almost always closed.
As B’Tselem, Israel’s main human rights organization, said earlier, “Apart from a handful of cases, usually involving low-ranking soldiers, no one has been tried for harming Palestinians.”
Israel systematically violates international human rights law in the occupied territories, but third-party states and global institutions responsible for guaranteeing and implementing justice rarely demand accountability.
The lack of political will among world leaders, institutions and agencies to hold Israel accountable for its crimes was highlighted last year when Israel bombed the al-Jalaa tower in Gaza, home to the media offices of Al Jazeera and The Associated Press.
As long as Israel continues to operate with impunity and commit human rights violations without accountability from the international community, we will inevitably see more than we see today.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.