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San Francisco vigil marks 2 years since journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in West Bank

In San Francisco on Saturday, several hundred people gathered at the Embarcadero for a vigil, marking the second anniversary of the day a well-known Palestinian-American journalist was killed while reporting in the occupied West Bank.

Attendees also mourned the journalists believed to have been killed in Gaza since October 7, 2023.

Those at the memorial called for justice for Shireen Abu Akleh, an American citizen and a reporter for Al Jazeera, who was shot and killed on May 11, 2022.

Abu Akleh’s cousin, Jennifer Zacharia, lives in Berkeley and was at the vigil on Saturday.

Zacharia said that on that day Abu Akleh was killed, “she was covering an Israeli military incursion into the Jenin refugee camp.”

Zacharia said that during a time when no skirmishes were going on, her cousin walked up an open street, and then one of her colleagues was shot. Then, the shooting continued.

“And they shot her in these few inches between her press jacket and her vest,” Zacharia explained. Zacharia noted that video shows that people tried to grab Abu Akleh and pull her away after she’d been shot, but those individuals were shot at as well.

Dena Takruri, a senior presenter and producer with Al Jazeera’s AJ+ channel, spoke at the vigil on Saturday. She described Abu Akleh as a friend and colleague.

Takruri emphasized that when Abu Akleh was killed, she was “wearing a clearly marked press vest and a helmet.”

“We demand justice and accountability for her,” Takruri said.

Israel ultimately admitted one of its soldiers likely fired the shot at Abu Akleh accidentally.

But Abu Akleh’s death sparked international outrage and many, including Zacharia, don’t trust Israel’s account.

“You don’t accidentally shoot someone within the two inches [between your vest and neck] that’s a sniper shot and it’s an intentional one,” Zacharia said.

Zacharia said there has not been justice or accountability for her cousin’s death.

Additionally, Zacharia said she is not surprised to see the number of journalists who have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7.

“And there were quite a few journalists killed before Shireen, and then Shireen was killed, and now, basically, the last seven months have basically accelerated and heightened everything that had been happening,” Zacharia continued.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, as of May 11, at least 97 journalists have been confirmed dead in Gaza, and among those 92 are Palestinian.

According to Reporters Without Borders, more than 100 reporters were killed in the six months since Oct. 7.

“This is the deadliest conflict for journalists in modern history,” emphasized Dena Takruri with AJ+.

Takruri said that her Al Jazeera colleagues have faced “relentless attacks” in the West Bank and in Gaza, with Al Jazeera journalists killed as well as their family members targeted and killed.

This month, Israel ordered Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera to shut down its Israel offices.

“That is an attack against press freedom,” Takruri said.

“A threat to press freedom in one place is a threat to press freedom everywhere,” she continued.

With Israel effectively barring foreign journalists in Gaza, those with loved ones there have relied on the social media accounts of local journalists and people on the ground there.

“Everybody is now having access to the stories that are coming out of Gaza, raw, unfiltered, directly from the people that are suffering, that are paying the huge huge price,” said Jumana, a San Francisco resident who attended the vigil.

Jumana, who is Palestinian-American said that her cousin was only able to escape Gaza a few weeks ago and is now unrecognizable due to the starvation she experienced.

Jumana and others at the vigil are urging for more action from the international community, including more action to protect those capturing the stories of Gaza.

“Journalists cannot be targeted, they should be protected under international law,” she said.  

Source: NBC Bay Area

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