The image of the lifeless body of Shireen Abu Akleh lying face down on the ground has not left the mind of cinematographer Majdi Bannoura.
Bannoura was just meters away when Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli troops in Jenin a month ago, on May 11. As her cameraman, and with great difficulty, he knew he had to film what he was witnessing. .
A month later, Bannoura, who worked for Al Jazeera and had a 24-year professional and personal relationship with Abu Akleh, was still in a state of shock.
“We still can’t believe she’s gone, that we haven’t seen her in a month. We walked into the office hoping to hear her voice,” he said.
The murder of a 51-year-old veteran Palestinian reporter for the Arab television station Al Jazeera has sent shockwaves around the world.
Abu Akleh, also an American citizen, was shot in the head while concealing an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp, in the occupied West Bank to the north, despite wearing a press shirt and Wear a clear helmet.
Al Jazeera described Abu Akleh’s death as “blatant murder” and said she was “assassinated in cold blood”. The network appointed a legal team to refer her murder to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
‘More than a colleague’
Abu Akleh joined Al Jazeera Arabic at the same time as Bannoura, in August 1997, a year after the network launched. Back then, Bannoura filmed his first appearance on camera with this channel in Jerusalem.
He also filmed her last film, as she turned from a reporter into her own story.
Upon hearing the first bullet, Bannoura began recording. He saw his colleague, Ali al-Samoudi (now recovered), shot.
“Ali was injured and I started filming him, I didn’t see Shireen and I wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the tragedy we were having,” he recalls.
“When I turned the camera on Shireen, I saw her lying on the ground. I want to cross the street, but there’s live ammunition firing at us. I realized that the situation was very dangerous – if I went out, I would get shot,” Bannoura said.
“I didn’t process what was happening, I made the decision within seconds to continue filming.”
Bannoura kept an eye on Shireen’s body as he filmed, hoping he would see any signs of life, but to no avail. By the time she was dragged away and taken to the hospital, she was already dead.
Losing her had a difficult and lasting effect on his life, Bannoura said.
“Shireen is more than a colleague, she is a friend to everyone, we have a long relationship outside of work,” he said between tears.
“She will come, she knows my children. We spent more time together than at home. It is not going to get any easier, whether a month or two months, or a year or two years, will pass.”
While Abu Akleh’s murder will continue to stir controversy as calls for justice and accountability continue, those around her at the scene are still reliving her pain and horror. this event.
Local journalist Mujahed al-Saadi stood next to Abu Akleh when she was shot. He said he felt like time had stopped.
“The days have not passed yet. I wake up at night and the image of Shireen’s last moments is still in my mind,” al-Saadi told Al Jazeera.
Despite being within direct range, al-Saadi wished he could do more for Abu Akleh.
“Sometimes I feel guilty that I, as a child of the region, couldn’t protect Shireen. I didn’t expect her to be a martyr – I thought I would be the one to die in front of her, closer to the soldiers,” al-Saadi said.
“I went crazy because I felt that the bullets were for me,” he added.
Abu Akleh often conducted her live television broadcasts from the terrace of al-Saadi’s home, and he accompanied her on the field several times, especially in the camp.
The father of two said working with her – after growing up and seeing her on TV – was an “honour”.
“Many people just dream of having the chance to talk to her, let alone work with her,” al-Saadi said, noting her coverage of her life. Israel’s 2002 large-scale invasion of the Jenin refugee camp where he used to live.
“What shocked me the most when I started working with her was her humility, despite how popular she was. She loves her country. She is loved by everyone.”
Abu Akleh’s funeral lasted more than three days, from Jenin to Jerusalem – one of the longest processions in Palestinian history – and included Nablus and Ramallah. It shows respect for her, al-Saadi said, among the Palestinians who regularly take to the streets to bid her farewell.
For al-Saadi and Bannoura, the chances of justice for Abu Akleh are slim due to the fact that Israel is rampant with punishment.
“We have never seen any justice – from any side or an international court. Even if we are journalists, we are Palestinians at the end of the day,” Bannoura said, adding that any Palestinian could be targeted.
“We hope that Shireen’s case will be the moment that changes everything in the future.”