For a quarter of a century Palestinians tuning in to Al Jazeera news grew accustomed to reassuring, clipped signoffs from a star correspondent, an Arab woman and veteran journalist who was a household name across the Middle East.
“Shireen Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera,” she would say, followed by a dateline that traced the arc of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — from Ramallah to Jericho, Bethlehem to Jerusalem.
An architecture student who joined the fledgling Qatar-funded channel in 1997, the 51-year-old Palestinian-American’s fame grew along with Al Jazeera’s influence in the Arab world. Her signoffs even became part of the soundtrack to the 2002 battle for the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, mocked by Israeli soldiers using megaphones during gunfights with Palestinian militants in the refugee camps, according to her friend and fellow journalist Dalia Hatuqa.
Abu Akleh died in Jenin this week from a gunshot to the head. Her killing has thrown the issues she spent her career exploring — the brutality of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the challenges Palestinians face in holding the Israeli army accountable — back under the spotlight.
Israeli soldiers have killed 45 people so far this year, said the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. It says as many as 35 of those who died were civilians, including women and children. The Israeli army disputes those numbers and says it was targeting militants.
The question of who shot Abu Akleh while she was covering skirmishes between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen has already become a pivotal issue. It has brought international attention to an Israel military operation in the West Bank, which began in response to attacks by Palestinian perpetrators inside Israel. Seventeen Israelis and three foreigners have been killed inside Israel since March in the worst spate of violence in recent years. Four of the assailants came from Jenin.
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