UN condemns killing of Palestinian-American journalist

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN Security Council on Friday night strongly condemned the murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation.”

The 15-member council approved a press release after language emphasizing the importance of press freedom and the need for journalists working in dangerous areas to be protected at the insistence of China and Russia was removed, diplomats said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

The council’s statement reiterated “that journalists must be protected as civilians” and also condemned the injury suffered by Abu Akleh’s colleague.

Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name throughout the Arab world, revered for her coverage of Palestinian life under Israeli rule for the Al Jazeera satellite channel for the past 25 years.

She was shot dead on Wednesday during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. Journalists who were with her, including an Al Jazeera colleague who was shot, said Israeli forces shot at them even though they were clearly identifiable as journalists.

Anger over the killing of Abu Akleh intensified on Friday when Israeli riot police pushed and punched pallbearers, causing them to briefly dump his coffin in a shocking start to his funeral procession. It became perhaps the biggest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation.

Israel says it is investigating the incident. He initially suggested that he was shot by Palestinian militants, without providing evidence, but has since recanted. Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and cooperates with it on security.

But the Palestinians rejected a joint investigation and demanded an independent international investigation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for his assassination and said he would immediately ask the International Criminal Court to investigate. The ICC launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes more than a year ago, an investigation Israel has dismissed as biased.

The Security Council did not use the word international, called for an impartial investigation and stressed the need to ensure accountability.

Negotiations on the council statement were led by Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Norway’s ambassador to the UN, Mona Juul, praised the “good collaboration”, calling the protection of journalists a priority for her country.

“We are especially concerned about the growing trend of attacks on media jobs and, in particular, on women journalists,” Juul said in a statement.

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