Nahed Araf Imran and her husband Jamal were exhausted but excited on Wednesday morning: Nahed was delivering their third child at a local hospital in Nablus, in the northern occupied West Bank.
But when Jamal’s mother arrived at the hospital crying just before the couple’s daughter was born, he knew something was wrong.
“I asked her what happened and she told me that Shireen Abu Aqleh had been shot by the Israelis. Shireen had visited us in our town of Bureen and had covered protests here on several occasions. Everyone knows her,” the 29-year-old construction worker said.
“My mother was heartbroken. I thought, when the baby comes, we’ll name it Shireen, and my wife agreed.
Shireen Abu Aqleh Jamal Imran was born around noon on Wednesday. At dawn that morning, his namesake, a 51-year-old veteran Al Jazeera journalist, was shot in the head and killed in an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid on the town. West Bank of Jenin.
Israeli officials said they believe the dual Palestinian and American citizen died after being hit by Palestinian gunfire during an altercation between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen.
But the journalist’s colleagues at the scene said there were no activists near the small group of reporters – all wearing helmets and body armor clearly marked “press” – when they came under fire. shots from the direction of the Israeli unit. Ali Samodi, an Al Jazeera producer who was shot in the back, told the Observer from his hospital bed that even after Abu Aqleh fell to the ground and colleagues tried to reach him, the bullets kept coming. Video of the incident confirms this version of events.
Israel has firmly rejected allegations that its soldiers deliberately targeted journalists, but the international community is demanding answers on what Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television channel, described as a “bloody” assassination. cold”.
Unlike the murders of anonymous Palestinians that occur regularly in the occupied West Bank, Abu Aqleh was a familiar face, broadcasting to millions across the Arab world and well known for her bravery during a 15-year television career. She was also an American citizen. This time, an Israeli strategy of diversion and denial backfired.
What is seen by Palestinians as Israeli obfuscation also threatens to fuel a wave of violence that has swept through Israel and the Palestinian territories since late March.
A video released by the Israeli military showing what it said were Palestinian militants engaged in a firefight in Jenin the morning Abu Aqleh was killed has been heavily criticized: the rights group B’Tselem, who visited both sites, found it impossible for the shot in the video distributed by the IDF to be the same shot that hit Abu Aqleh and Samodi.
And the sight of Israeli police storming Abu Aqleh’s funeral procession in Jerusalem on Friday, knocking down the pallbearers of his coffin, added to Palestinian and international outrage.
The public display of Palestinian flags in occupied East Jerusalem is banned by Israeli authorities under all circumstances, but many mourners arrived waving Palestinian banners. The journalist’s coffin was also draped in the flag, followed by an orange stretcher wearing a bulletproof vest marked “press”.
The EU said it was appalled by the “unnecessary” force used by Israeli police, while the White House called footage from the scene “deeply disturbing”.
Israel Police said mourners were “disturbancing public order” by throwing stones at the heavy police presence, but said on Saturday an investigation into the officers’ actions would be opened.
“I was horrified by what I saw on TV at the funeral. I think it shows how Shireen exposed [Israel], she achieved this not only in life but also in death,” Imran said. Not letting his funeral be held with respect…they exposed themselves publicly in full view of the world.
The battle of narratives sparked by Abu Aqleh’s death is far from over. Palestinian officials rejected Israel’s offer for a joint investigation, saying “the criminals are not to be trusted”, leading Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to accuse the Palestinians of denying Israel “access to the basic conclusions necessary to arrive at the truth”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday at a state memorial for Abu Aqleh in the Palestinian city of Ramallah that the case will be referred to the International Criminal Court, of which Israel is not a member and whose state disputes the competence.
An interim investigation by the Israeli army “could not determine” who fired the fatal bullet, an IDF statement said on Friday, while an initial investigation by the Palestinian prosecutor’s office revealed that “the sole origin of the shots was the Israeli occupying forces”.
In the meantime, even more than during his career, Abu Aqleh’s notoriety has increased. Outside the journalist’s home in Beit Hanina in East Jerusalem this week, neighbors and friends gathered daily to mourn her death despite a raid on the house on Wednesday by Israeli forces: many posted pictures of her in their windows. In the quiet street outside, neighborhood children gather waving Palestinian flags.
“Shireen was a Christian and we are a Muslim family, but it didn’t matter,” a neighbor said. “She united us.
For the thousands of people who took to the streets of the West Bank and Jerusalem this week in tribute, the life and death of Abu Aqleh has become a powerful symbol.
“Shireen’s story is the story of the Palestinian people,” said Imran, the father of newborn Shireen. “She will never be forgotten, especially for our family. Every time we call her, we will remember.