Israel is waging a “wide-scale war” on Palestinian media workers, as illustrated by the killing of Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, journalism representatives told UN investigators on Thursday.
“Israel is targeting Palestinian journalists as part of a systemic policy to stifle the Palestinian voices and to silence us,” said Naser Abubaker, president of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate.
“We as Palestinian journalists are subjected to not just abuse and violations, but a wide-scale war by the occupying state.”
Speaking to a high-level team of UN investigators, he said nearly 50 Palestinian journalists have been killed doing their work since 2000 and “no one was held accountable.”
He pointed to the case of Abu Akleh, a veteran Al-Jazeera reporter who was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “Press” and a helmet when she was shot in the head during an army operation in Jenin refugee camp, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on May 11.
Describing the shooting as an “extrajudicial killing” and a “war crime,” he said that “so far, six months have passed without any accountability.”
The Israeli army conceded in September for the first time that one of its soldiers had likely shot Abu Akleh after having mistaken her for a militant.
The acknowledgement came after months in which the army had insisted it was impossible to determine the source of the deadly shot that killed her, saying it could have been militant fire.
A United Nations investigation concluded in June that there was “no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by” when she was shot.
Abu Akleh’s killing is the subject of one of the first in a series of rare public hearings hosted by the Commission of Inquiry (COI), which was created by the UN Human Rights Council last year after an 11-day war between Israel and armed militants in Gaza, to probe the root causes of the decades-long Middle East conflict.
The first series of hearings, which are being live-streamed, kicked off Monday focusing on Israel’s designation last year of seven Palestinian civil society groups as “terrorist” bodies.
Lead investigator Navi Pillay told the assembly that the aim of the hearings was “to allow victims and survivors on all sides to speak for themselves.”
Pillay stressed that the COI had “invited submissions from all parties and from states” and was “ready to hear alternate voices.”
Israel, which has accused Pillay and the other commissioners of championing an “anti-Israel agenda” and has refused to cooperate with their investigation, has slammed the hearings.
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