Shirin Abu Akle, a journalist killed in the West Bank, was the “voice of Palestinian suffering”.

Her employer, Al Jazeera, condemned her death as a “blatant murder” by Israeli forces. Three eyewitnesses told CNN that the journalists were shot by Israeli forces and that there were no Palestinian militants in the immediate vicinity of the journalists. Israel’s military chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, said it was “impossible” to determine from which direction she was shot from and vowed to investigate. Earlier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said there was “a significant possibility” that she was shot dead by Palestinians in the crossfire.
Abu Akle joined Al Jazeera a year after its founding in 1997, at the age of 26. The channel has become a key channel for TV journalism in the Arab world with its round-the-clock coverage of pan-Arab issues. It was controversial in the West and in the Middle East for broadcasting interviews with dubious figures such as Osama bin Laden and the Arab opposition.

But Al Jazeera’s biggest draw to viewers may have been its coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It raised eyebrows in the Arab world, becoming the first major pan-Arab news outlet to put Israel on a map and provide airtime to Israeli officials at a time when the vast majority of Arab countries did not recognize a Jewish state. But it also did not shy away from highlighting the minute details of Palestinian suffering, which often drew Israel’s ire.

Abu Akle has become the face of this illumination at home and in the region. According to Al Jazeera, she covered the wars in Gaza in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021, and the war in Lebanon in 2006.

“I will never forget the scale of the destruction and the feeling that sometimes death was close,” Abu Akle said her lighting 2002 Israeli invasion to the West Bank in a video released by Al Jazeera in October.

“We used to sleep in hospitals or under the roofs of strangers, and despite the danger, we were determined to keep reporting it,” she said.

Giwara Budeiri, a fellow Al Jazeera journalist who has known Abu Akle for over two decades, told CNN her friend was a very brave journalist but had a crushing fear of heights.

“Shirin has never shied away from covering any event,” Budeiri said. “She was never afraid of anything but to stand on top of a tall building.”

She recalled that Abu Akle would have said that if she hadn’t taken up journalism, her career would have been working at a homeless animal shelter.

Palestinian writer Mariam Barghouti tweeted this she recalled Abu Akle’s “voice echoing through the house as she spoke of the brutality of the military invasion” when she was a child. The Al Jazeera reporter was the only journalist to cover her own arrest by soldiers, writes Barghouti.

According to Al Jazeera, Abu Akle was born in Jerusalem in 1971 to a Christian Palestinian family from Bethlehem. After graduation, she studied architecture at the University of Science and Technology in Jordan, then moved to the Faculty of Journalism. She received her bachelor’s degree from Yarmouk University in Jordan.

Prior to joining Al Jazeera, she worked for Voice of Palestine Radio, Amman Satellite Channel, the Miftah Foundation, and French Radio Monte Carlo. She also worked with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East, according to Al Jazeera.

“Every home … in Palestine or outside mourns Shirin because she is our voice to the world,” said Terry Bullata, a friend and former classmate of Abu Akle. “She is the voice of our suffering under the occupation. She is the voice of our longing for freedom.”

Akle said she chose journalism to be “close to the people”. Al Jazeera reported that she had studied Hebrew before her death in order to better understand Israeli media narratives.

“During difficult times, I overcame fear,” Abu Akle said in an October video. “It may be difficult to change reality, but at least I was able to bring that voice to the world.”

Additional reporting from Abir Salman in Jerusalem

Digest

UAE food delivery workers stage rare strike, second in a month

Foreign food delivery workers for Talabat in the UAE staged a massive strike on Monday calling for higher wages and better working conditions in a rare act of protest in the Gulf state.

  • Background: Earlier this month, foreign workers forced another food delivery company to drop plans to cut wages after leaving work in protest. On Monday, Talabat workers refused to accept supplies in the capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai. A Talabat spokesman said that until last week, 70% of drivers were dissatisfied with their pay, which resulted in them earning AED3,500 ($953) a month on average.
  • Why is it important: The strike is the second of its kind in a month, a rare manifestation of public discontent in the UAE, where workers are tightly controlled. The country also has two cities with a large presence of expatriates. Alliances and collective action are prohibited in the country.

Biden considering visit to East Jerusalem – Israeli official

US President Joe Biden is considering a visit to East Jerusalem as part of an upcoming June visit to Israel, an Israeli official told CNN on Monday.

  • Background: Biden may visit al-Makassed hospital, although plans have not yet been agreed, the Israeli official added. A hospital in East Jerusalem serves Palestinians, including residents of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Former President Donald Trump cut planned funding for the East Jerusalem hospital chain by $25 million, which included Al-Makassed Hospital.
  • Why is it important: The US President’s visit to the predominantly Palestinian area of ​​the city, which was captured by Israel in 1967, is likely to be seen as a gesture of support for the Palestinians. The Biden administration has promised to reopen a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem after Trump closed it and moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For many Palestinians, the American consulate in Jerusalem will be seen as a precursor to what they hope will one day be the American embassy in East Jerusalem, the capital of a potential future state of Palestine.

EU MP Mora heads to Tehran to save nuclear deal

The European Union’s coordinator for Iran’s nuclear program said on Tuesday he was heading to Tehran to meet with Iran’s negotiator Bagheri Kani to try to give new impetus to keeping the 2015 agreement alive.

  • Background: Negotiations to restart Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have been suspended since March, largely because Tehran is pushing Washington to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its elite security forces, from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
  • Why is it important: The visit is taking place against the backdrop of increased diplomatic activity to save the talks. Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad will visit Iran this week to try to revive deadlocked talks. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday that he was still hopeful of a deal, but that negotiations were difficult and the moment could be lost. He said he also warned Iran that the country was not transparent enough about its nuclear activities.

By region

Jordan’s criminalization of some cases of attempted suicide is causing outrage among mental health advocates.

The Middle Eastern country’s lower house of parliament amended the law late last month to punish anyone who attempts suicide in a public place with up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 100 Jordanian dinars ($141), or and one and the other. The penalty is doubled in the event of a mass suicide attempt.

For law to take effect, it must pass the Senate and finally the King.

Previously, only those who contributed to suicide were punished.

The public reaction on social media has been a mixture of shock, confusion and anger. One called this move “the massacre of the laws”.

The government supported this move. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Bishr al-Khasawneh said it confirmed “the idea of ​​protecting the right to life,” citing religious texts. He also downplayed most suicides as “not serious” and said they “get attention”.

In response to the change in law, online therapy platform Arab Therapy has offered free consultations to anyone with suicidal thoughts. The platform told CNN that it has since received more than 200 consultation requests.

“Decisions like this don’t help people who are thinking about suicide, they only confirm their loss of hope,” founder Tarek Dalbach, a Jordanian doctor based in Germany, told CNN.

In response to the Prime Minister’s statement, Dalba says that all suicide attempts should be taken seriously, no matter the circumstances. He pointed out that the confusion about how the law would be applied is causing people with suicidal thoughts to avoid seeking help for fear of punishment.

The number of suicides was 186 last year, up 60% from 2019, according to data provided to CNN by the Jordanian Department of Statistics. Dahlbach said health insurance rarely covers mental health in the country.

Mohammed Abdelbari

How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide can also provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

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