Shireen Abu Akleh, one month on: ‘The days have not passed’

The image of Shireen Abu Akleh’s lifeless body lying face down on the ground has not left cameraman Majdi Bannoura’s mind.

Bannoura was only a few metres away when Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces in Jenin a month ago, on May 11. As her cameraman, and as difficult as it was, he knew that he had to film what he was witnessing.

A month later, Bannoura, who works for Al Jazeera and had a 24-year professional and personal relationship with Abu Akleh, is still in a state of shock.

“We still cannot believe that she’s gone, that we haven’t seen her for a month. We walk into the office hoping to hear her voice,” he said.

The killing of the 51-year-old veteran Palestinian correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic television has sent shockwaves throughout the world.

Abu Akleh, who also held American citizenship, was shot in the head while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp, in the northern occupied West Bank, despite wearing a clearly marked press vest and helmet.

‘Much more than a colleague’

Abu Akleh joined Al Jazeera Arabic at the same time as Bannoura, in August 1997, a year after the network was launched. Back then, Bannoura filmed her first-ever appearance on camera with the channel in Jerusalem.

He also filmed her last, when she was transformed from a reporter into the story itself.

Upon hearing the first bullet, Bannoura began recording. He saw that his colleague, Ali al-Samoudi (who has now recovered), had been shot.

“Ali was injured and I started filming him, I didn’t see Shireen and I wasn’t aware of the size of the tragedy we were in,” he recalled.

“When I turned the camera towards Shireen, I saw her lying on the ground. I wanted to cross the street, but there was live ammunition being fired at us. I realised that the situation was very dangerous – that if I went out, I was going to get shot,” said Bannoura.

“I wasn’t processing what was happening, I made a decision within seconds to keep filming.”

Bannoura kept his eyes on Shireen’s body as he filmed, hoping he would see any sign of life, but to no avail. By the time she was dragged away and taken to a hospital, she was already dead.

Losing her, said Bannoura, has had a difficult and lasting effect on his life.

“Shireen was much more than a colleague, she was a friend to everyone, we had a lifelong relationship beyond just work,” he said between tears.

“She would come over, she knew my children. We spent more time together than we would spend in our own homes. It’s not going to get easier, whether a month or two months, or a year or two years, pass.”

‘An honour’

While Abu Akleh’s killing will continue to make headlines as calls for justice and accountability persist, those who were next to her at the scene are still reliving the trauma and horror of the event.

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