10/26/2022, 14.45
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Anton Abu Akleh meets pope, seeks truth about Shireen’s killing

by Dario Salvi

The family of the Palestinian journalist slain by an Israeli soldier met the pontiff on the sidelines of today’s general audience. Her brother told AsiaNews that the meeting is a source of strength for seeking justice, which is "the least we can do” to “honour her memory". A sense of impunity surrounds the Israeli army. Shireen "was a “voice for peace" who was silenced intentionally. For the Custody’s Fr Ibrahim Faltas, the current “situation is very serious”.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Anton Abu Akleh, the brother of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist shot dead on 11 May by an Israeli sniper during a military operation in Jenin, West Bank, met with Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State Card Pietro Parolin on the sidelines of today’s general audience at the Vatican.

For Anton Abu Akleh, this was an "important and emotional" meeting, which gives further “strength” to the struggle “for truth and justice” undertaken by the family. “This is the least we can and must do to honour her memory,” he said, speaking a few minutes after meeting the pontiff.

This intense and moving moment is a source of further support in the battle "that we carry out in the name and on behalf of all the Palestinian people,” he added. “We thanked the pope and Card Parolin for raising the issue at the UN," the brother of the murdered journalist said.

During the incident, one of her colleagues, Ali al Samoudi, was also wounded. Both wore bulletproof vests with the word Press on them and protective helmets.

In early September, Israel admitted there was a strong possibility that the journalist had been accidentally hit by bullets fired by soldiers, although Israel’s military has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying it had acted correctly.

"The quest for justice is fundamental, especially from a perspective of peace, because there is no peace without justice,” insisted Anton Abu Akleh. “To achieve this, we must put an end to the [Israeli] aggression, and the killings of civilians and journalists.

“For our family, for us who are Christians, the closeness of the pontiff and the cardinal is very important.” But solidarity “must be accompanied by justice and those responsible must answer for their actions" before a court "so that it does not happen again.”

"My sister was killed by an Israeli sniper" who knew that he was firing at a civilian target, but until now "the army and its soldiers have benefitted from a widespread climate of impunity."

"Shireen was a voice for peace, against the occupation, and worked to give voice" to the suffering of a people. "Also for this reason, Israel wanted to silence her, shooting at her intentionally.”

This afternoon at 5 pm, a memorial Mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, organised by the Greek Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch and the High Presidential Commission for Church Affairs in Palestine.

Archimandrite Chihade Abboud will lead the service in the presence of family members. A meeting will be held with Card Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches.

Following the incident, the Israeli army has maintained that it acted correctly, while admitting that it was highly likely that one of its soldiers confused Shireen Abu Akleh with an armed Palestinian militant.

The soldier shot her using a gun equipped with a telescopic scope that magnifies targets up to four times, from inside an armoured vehicle in which he was sitting.

Faced with a campaign by NGOs and activists (the family appealed to the International Criminal Court), Israel admitted to the killing, but insists that it was an error, not a deliberate act.

Meanwhile, the violence in the occupied territories continues to escalate. In their latest operation yesterday, Israeli forces killed six Palestinians, three of them armed, in Nablus.

Another victim shot dead was a protester throwing stones at soldiers during a protest march..

A new group calling itself Lion's Den emerged recently in the city and ended up in the crosshairs of the Israeli army (IDF) after killing a soldier earlier this month.

For its part, the Palestinian Authority (PA) recently launched an appeal for an international mobilisation against Israel, calling for an investigation into "war criminals".

Demonstrations are multiplying in all the territories and a “day of anger” has been called in Nablus, accompanied by a general strike.

The Palestinian delegation that met the pope today included Ibrahim Faltas, custodial vicar of the Holy Land.

"The situation is very serious and difficult,” he said. “Every day we have deaths, more than 180, including at least 47 children, since the beginning of the year.”

“We are all very worried,” he added. “There is a fear that things will get out of control and no one knows how it will end. I have lived in the Holy Land for 33 years and I have never seen the situation so serious."

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See also
Remembering Shireen Abu Akleh: a museum and scholarships for new voices of freedom
Pain and grief in Jerusalem for Christian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
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Shireen Abu Akleh’s family appeals to the International Criminal Court
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