Israel attempting to ‘escape criminal responsibility’ over Abu Akleh’s killing: Qatar’s assistant FM

In April this year, 57 violations by Israel were recorded against media and press.

The Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) failure to admit its role in killing veteran Al Jazeera Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is “an attempt to escape criminal responsibility,” Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al-Khater said on Friday.

“Israeli occupation forces’ failure to explicitly acknowledge its crime is an attempt to escape criminal responsibility. We call for an independent international investigation and accountability for those responsible,” Al-Khater told a high-level conference in Austria.

During the high-level conference on “Safety of Journalists: Protecting Media to Protect Democracy”, Al-Khater noted that the protection of the press “is of prime importance” to Qatar.

The conference came six months since the IOF killed the Palestinian-American journalist.

An Israeli sniper shot and killed Abu Akleh on 11 May while she was covering a raid in Jenin, during which she was clearly identified as a member of the press by wearing a blue vest and helmet.

The bullet targeted a precise location in Abu Akleh’s skull that was not covered by the helmet she was wearing, per numerous findings of investigations and witness testimonies. 

“Within two minutes, or within minutes, two Al Jazeera  journalists, Shireen Abu Akleh and Ali Al-Samoudi, were shot by IOF forces. Shireen’s injury, a shot aimed at her head directly, proved fatal,” said Al-Khater.

The evidence raised by witnesses and rights groups debunked initial claims by the Zionist state over an alleged presence of what they described as “Palestinian fighters”.

With an absence of accountability, Al-Khater renewed Qatar’s condemnation of Abu Akleh’s killing, saying that achieving justice for the “heinous crime” is crucial in preventing recurrence.

“Shireen dedicated her life working to shed light on the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people, she is one of more than 45 Palestinian journalists killed directly by the Israeli occupation since the year 2000,” said Al-Khater.

Just days ahead of the event in Austria, the senior Qatari official had met with Abu Akleh’s family in the Gulf state. During their meeting, they conveyed a message that Al-Khater quoted at the high-level conference, reminding officials of Abu Akleh’s reporting.

“Shireen relied on her reporting on facts and conveyed the voice of Palestine and its people to the whole world, which made her a role model for a large number of Palestinian women to follow in the field of media,” Al-Khater said, quoting Abu Akleh’s bereaved family.

The slain journalist’s niece Lina Abu Akleh along with her brother Tony Abu Akleh were in Doha last week, where they reinforced their plea for justice.

The late journalist’s family also highlighted the violent crackdown on Abu Akleh’s funeral, the largest that Palestine has ever witnessed. During the procession, the IOF violently beat up pallbearers in an attempt to drop the coffin. 

Pallbearers were even arrested and questioned for defending the slain journalist’s coffin.

“The Palestinian people stood in dignity and united during her funeral. Unfortunately, the occupation attacked the mourners without any reason and stormed the French hospital in Jerusalem also without any reason,” Al-Khater added, quoting Abu Akleh’s family.

Steps to accountability

Seeking accountability, Al Jazeera had taken the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), at The Hague.

Meanwhile, Qatar has continuously condemned the killing of Abu Akleh as well as the attack on her funeral. 

Addressing the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in May, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said that Israel denied Abu Akleh a dignified burial.

“[The] Palestinian-American journalist was killed two weeks ago in Palestine, and then robbed, of a dignified-burial. Shireen was covering the suffering, of the Palestinian people for decades, and our hearts, are broken,” said the amir.

The Gulf state, a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause, repeatedly voiced the need for an independent investigation into the killing.

Speaking to Doha News in September, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani renewed calls on the international community to hold Israel accountable for the killing of Abu Akleh.

“We hope that the international community will hold the Israeli authorities accountable for the crime that they have committed,” said Sheikh Mohammed in New York.

During the same month, an Israeli military report said that while one of the IOF soldiers “may have” killed Abu Akleh, there would still be no criminal investigation.

To date, Abu Akleh’s family continues to pressure the US, Israel’s main ally, to conduct an independent investigation.

In July, the family travelled to the US after President Joe Biden dodged a meeting with them during his Tel Aviv and West Bank visits. 

Abu Akleh’s family met with US State Secretary Antony Blinken instead, though the meeting yielded no progress in the case of the slain journalist.

In July, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on US authorities to follow up on its meeting with Abu Akleh’s family “with substantive action to investigate her death and bring those responsible to justice.”

Israel has long targeted the press for their reporting on the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. In April this year, 57 Israeli violations were recorded against the media.

“We must work together to ensure that journalists, especially those working in conflict zones, are protected, and that no, no exceptions are made, no exceptions are made, when we hold those responsible accountable,” said Al-Khater.

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