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Witness: A concert of Palestinian folk art commemorating the killing of Sherine Abu Aqelah


A year after the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Sherine Abu Aqleh during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank, her office remains silent and empty except for some of her personal items, while Al-Jazeera insists on pursuing her case before the international courts.

In Al-Jazeera’s offices, which are filled with pictures of the journalist widely known in the Arab world, her colleagues say they still “can’t believe” that she left them.

Majdi Bannoura, a photographer who was accompanying her when she was killed, says, “We greet Shireen every morning whenever we enter the office.”

He added, “Although a year has passed since her martyrdom, I still cannot believe that she is gone, and sometimes I feel like I am living in a dream.”

“I remember every word with her, when we were traveling on a business trip, and when she screamed, and I remember every bullet fired at us, I hear it as if it was yesterday,” he continues, with tears in his eyes.

“My colleagues and I are trying to convince ourselves that she is on vacation and that she will return,” he says.

The channel’s office director, Walid Al-Omari, confirms that Al-Jazeera is following up on the issue in all international forums and that it “will not stop, no matter how long it takes.”

Abu Aqleh (51 years old at the time) was killed on May 11 last year while covering an Israeli military operation in the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp in the northern West Bank occupied by Israel since 1967.

The channel’s management left Abu Aqelah’s office as it left it before her death, and hung two pictures of her on one of its walls, one of which was wearing a protective press shield.

Next to her office, there is a room in which dozens of bouquets of roses, banners, and her pictures that visitors brought to the office after her murder were distributed.

Al-Omari asserts that Sherine “left a huge void, because she was not only the chief correspondent for Al-Jazeera, but rather a whole crew.”

“We are not ready to say that we have brought an alternative to Shireen,” he told AFP from his office in downtown Ramallah on a street now bearing the name Abu Aqelah.

He added, “Psychologically, until now…we are unable to separate anything from Sherine’s influence, so we kept the office as it was.”

He explains that the office and Abu Aqelah’s belongings will be transferred to the “Shirin Abu Aqelah Media Museum”, which the channel administration, which financed its construction, and the Ramallah municipality, which provided the plot of land, will celebrate by laying the foundation stone for it on Thursday.

20 journalists

In a report published on Tuesday, the American Committee to Protect Journalists confirmed that it had documented during the past two decades no less than “20 cases in which journalists (18 Palestinians, a British and an Italian) were killed at the hands of” the Israeli army.

The commission concluded that “no one has been charged and no one has been held accountable for these deaths.”

One of the commission’s officials, Robert Mahoney, said, “The killing of Abu Aqelah, the failure of the army’s investigation mechanism, and the failure to hold anyone responsible is not an isolated issue,” denouncing a process that “seems designed to evade accountability.”

The committee noted that the majority of the murdered journalists were easily identifiable, and that their killing “weakens the freedom of the press and increases concern for the safety of Palestinian and foreign journalists.”

In response to the report, the Israeli military said it “regrets any harm to civilians during operations and considers protecting the freedom of the press and the professional work of journalists to be of great importance.”

The army said it was operating in a “complex security reality…and dealing with various forms of terrorist incidents”.

He confirmed that he “regularly examines and investigates his actions through independent and in-depth means” and that he initiates an “investigation” in the event of a “civil allegation”.

After the killing of the Palestinian journalist, the Al-Jazeera administration formed a team of legal experts from Britain to follow up the case with international human rights institutions. The team visited the Palestinian territories twice, met witnesses three times, and conducted a field investigation.

In December, the Qatari channel, Al-Jazeera, took the file to the International Criminal Court, asserting that she was deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces.

And the Israeli army admitted on the fifth of September that there was a “high possibility” that one of its soldiers had shot Abu Aqelah after he mistook her for one of the gunmen, but the Hebrew state announced that it would not cooperate with any foreign investigation.

“The decision at the highest levels of the Al-Jazeera administration is to follow up on this case to achieve justice,” Al-Omari says.

“After a year has passed, no decision has been taken, and international legitimacy has to prove its justice,” he says.

“But we will do everything we have to follow up on the case… We are still pressing for the Public Prosecutor in the Criminal Court to move to take a decision,” he added.

And he points to options represented in either “announcing the formation of an official, independent international commission, or for the (International Criminal Court) to announce a clear position to achieve justice for Shirin.”

Shirin’s right

On the anniversary of the killing of Abu Aqelah, the Palestinians organize media and cultural activities to commemorate her.

The Palestinian Folk Art Center, of which Abu Aqleh was a member of its general assembly with her family and friends, held a cultural party in her memory at the Ramallah Cultural Palace.

Antoine Abu Aqleh, the late journalist’s brother, confirmed that the family is waiting for “justice for Sherine.”

“During this year, we went through many stages, experiences and challenges to try to obtain Shirin’s right, and achieve justice for Shirin, the justice that everyone awaits after Shirin’s assassination,” he said.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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