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A Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera is killed in the West Bank


A Palestinian American journalist for Al-Jazeera has been killed in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem says Shireen Abu Akleh was a U.S. citizen and is calling for a swift, thorough and transparent investigation. Al-Jazeera, citing the Palestinian Health Authority, says she was shot in the head. Israel says the circumstances surrounding her death aren't yet clear, but it is said to have happened during an Israeli arrest raid on a Palestinian refugee camp. NPR's Daniel Estrin is following this story from Jerusalem. Daniel, your team spoke with an Al-Jazeera journalist who was there and who was shot in the back. What did he have to say about what happened?

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Yeah, his name is Ali Samoudi. He says his team arrived on the scene. Israeli soldiers were surrounding a Palestinian home in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and the journalists were there to cover it. They were wearing vests marked press, they were carrying camera equipment, and the soldiers allowed them to pass in front of them - they weren't stopped. And then, he says, there was one shot, then another, which hit him in the back, and a third shot hit his colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh, in the head.

MARTÍNEZ: Tell us a bit more about the journalist who was killed.

ESTRIN: She was a veteran correspondent. She worked for decades for Al-Jazeera Arabic. She covered some of the most intense fighting here between Palestinians and Israelis in the second intifada in the early 2000s, and she was a household name for Palestinians who watched her on their television for years, finding out, you know, what was happening in their own backyard from her reports. As you mentioned, she was a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. embassy says she was well-known to the U.S., and they're calling for a swift investigation.

MARTÍNEZ: And so, Daniel, this is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here - narratives compete against each other.


MARTÍNEZ: And Israel says that it was a Palestinian gunman who may have shot the journalists.

ESTRIN: Yeah, the Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, spoke about this in parliament, and he said there is a chance Palestinian gunmen killed Shireen Abu Akleh in a firefight with Israeli troops. Now, I would note that the Al-Jazeera journalist we spoke with says there was no firefight at the moment where they were - when they were there, but Israel is calling on Palestinian authorities to conduct a joint autopsy. And the Israeli prime minister stressed that Israeli soldiers were there in the first place to try to contain an intensified period of violence in recent weeks. Just this weekend, there was a Palestinian axe attack that killed three Israelis. And just today, Palestinian officials say Israeli troops killed another Palestinian.

MARTÍNEZ: How might today's killing impact this ongoing wave of violence?

ESTRIN: A, it is a really unstable situation here right now. Palestinians have been carrying out deadly attacks on Israelis in recent weeks, and there have been heightened emotions because nationalist Jewish activists have been visiting and praying at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Steps away from where I am right now, in the Old City, you're hearing in the background the church bells ringing. This is a very religiously sensitive place, and the atmosphere right now is heightened. There are Israeli arrest raids in Palestinian villages at night, the economy in the West Bank is dismal following the pandemic, and Israeli officials are calling on their own citizens to bear arms to protect from violence. So there's a hypersensitive feeling that the Israeli government is trying to be sensitive to the anger of its citizens at a moment when the government here is politically struggling to survive. So it's a very unstable moment.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.