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Shireen Abu Akleh: Celebrities demand accountability for journalist's killing

Mark Ruffalo, Tilda Swinton and Eric Cantona among the more than 100 celebrities to condemn killing of veteran Al Jazeera reporter
Shireen Abu Akleh
Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli forces while covering a raid last week in the Occupied West Bank city of Jenin (AFP/File photo)

More than 100 celebrities and artists have signed a statement released on Thursday, demanding accountability for Israel's killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. 

Abu Akhleh was shot dead by Israeli forces while covering a raid last week in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Israel denies responsibility for her death.

The artists, who include actors Mark Ruffalo, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Steve Coogan and Miriam Margolyes, filmmakers Asif Kapadia, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and former footballer Eric Cantona, said they were "deeply disturbed" by the journalist's killing, who was "wearing a clearly marked press vest". 

"As we grieve her loss, we call for full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorising it," the statement said.

On Tuesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the Israeli army's military police criminal investigation division did not plan to investigate the killing after concluding there was no suspicion of a criminal act.

Israel had initially said Palestinian gunmen may have been responsible for the death, but then backtracked on its statement, saying it was still unclear what transpired.

Eyewitnesses, including Middle East Eye correspondent Shatha Hanaysha, said Abu Akleh had been targeted by an Israeli sniper.

Shireen Abu Akleh killing: Israel's record of killing Palestinian journalists
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Thursday's statement went on to condemn Israeli forces beating and attacking Palestinian mourners and pallbearers during the journalist's funeral last Friday, which resulted in the coffin nearly falling to the ground. 

"What are we to make of the brazenness and cruelty of this attack on human dignity?" the statement added. 

"The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh is a grave breach of international humanitarian law and an attack on journalism and freedom of expression. UN and international human rights experts have said that it may constitute a war crime and should be subject to an independent, transparent international investigation."

Israel has been documented killing and maiming journalists for decades. In April, a formal complaint was filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC), alleging that Israel's "systematic targeting" of Palestinian journalists and its failure to investigate their killings amounted to war crimes.

At least 46 Palestinian journalists have been killed sisnce the Second Intifida in 2000, according to the Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate. 

"These crimes are part of a pattern of violence, harassment and intimidation against Palestinian journalists who are shining a light on what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israel's leading human rights organisation, B’Tselem, have described as a system of apartheid imposed on the Palestinian people," Thursday's letter continues. 

The statement goes on to accuse "Western powers" of providing "diplomatic cover" for Israeli violations of international law and norms. 

"It has not gone unnoticed that while our governments have rushed to impose blanket boycotts and sanctions in response to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and the cruelty of its attacks on a civilian population, the same governments continue to fund and shield Israel's decades-long occupation and grave human rights violations against Palestinians."

A small group of politicians have called on the US government to investigate Abu Akleh's killing, urging the administration of US President Joe Biden to restrict military aid to Israel over the tragedy.

Meanwhile in the UK, a handful of MPs also called for an inquiry during an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on Monday.