Shireen Abu Akleh’s family still seeks justice a year after her death

The veteran US-Palestinian journalist was killed while covering an Israeli raid on May 11, 2022

A woman holds a Justice for Shireen sign at a candlelight vigil for Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh outside of the White House. Willy Lowry / The National
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The family of Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran journalist who was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, is still searching for justice a year after her death.

Abu Akleh, 51, died after being shot in the head. She was wearing a bulletproof jacket with the word "Press" written across it.

Israel initially denied responsibility and blamed Palestinian gunmen operating in the area, only to later concede there was a “high possibility” one of its soldiers accidentally shot the Al Jazeera journalist while she was covering the military operation near Jenin.

The Israeli military has not held anyone involved accountable.

Abu Akleh's family has repeatedly called on the US to hold Israel responsible for the Palestinian American’s death.

“From the beginning we’ve called on the US government to act in the same way it would if any other American citizen was killed abroad,” the family said in a statement.

A few dozen people gathered outside the White House on Thursday evening for a candlelight vigil.

"We're here, across from the White House, because there's an important message to deliver to the Biden administration, which is that President [Joe] Biden needs to be consistent if he's going to be a proponent of press freedom for journalists," said journalist Laila Al Arian.

“He needs to also lend his voice to the case of Shireen Abu Akleh and to demand from the Israelis to release all of the information they have."

Isra Chaker, a Syrian-American activist, took her 18-month old son Sameer to the vigil.

“It's important for us to recognise the plight of injustice against Palestinians, and our need to call out for accountability collectively,” Ms Chaker said.

A federal criminal investigation launched after the killing has so far yielded few results.

The US State Department has condemned the killing but said it found no reason to believe her death was intentional.

“Both the findings from the IDF as well as the findings we discussed last summer from the US Security Co-ordinator continue to indicate that there was not an intentionality to this very tragic, tragic incident,” said Vedant Patel, deputy spokesman for the US State Department.

The US position has not satisfied the Abu Akleh family, who continue to push for accountability.

"Our family will continue to pursue justice for Shireen — from the halls of the US Congress to the International Criminal Court — and urge members of Congress, journalists, and people of conscience around the world to join our family in calling for justice and accountability so that no other family has to endure the pain ours has," they said.

Abu Akleh was one of the most prominent journalists in the Arab world and she helped to inspire a generation of female journalists in Palestine.

“A female journalist on the frontline trying her best to expose the occupation's crimes was the model that I saw in Shireen,” said Dareen Jubeh, a freelance journalist in the region.

Ms Jubeh said Abu Akleh was always willing to lend insight to aspiring reporters.

“I learnt from her coverage and had discussions sometimes with her about on-ground situations that gave me a wider understanding of how things develop and more understanding of the reality on ground,” Ms Jubeh told The National.

In Washington, supporters of Abu Akleh planned a vigil outside the White House for Thursday evening to honour her.

Memorial service in Ramallah for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh - in pictures

Updated: May 12, 2023, 1:18 AM