Thousands of people from all walks of life have staged a mass rally in the United Kingdom to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the ‘Nakba,’ or Catastrophe, when more than 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly driven from their homes as Israel proclaimed its illegal existence in 1948.
People gathered in front of Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in central London on Saturday afternoon before marching to Number 10, the official residence and executive office of the prime minister, in Downing Street.
The participants waved Palestinian flags, chanted slogans and expressed anger at the ongoing brutal oppression of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli forces.
They also strongly condemned the killing of veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot by Israeli troops as she was covering an army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
The protesters called for a swift and independent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. The demonstrators also signed a memorial book in honor of the slain reporter for the Qatar-based and Arabic-language Al Jazeera television news network.
“Shireen Abu Akleh is the 55th journalist to be murdered by Israeli occupation forces since 2000,” a placard put up next to the memorial book read.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East al-Quds during the Six-Day War in 1967. It later annexed East al-Quds in a move not recognized by the international community.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state, with East al-Quds as its capital.
But Israel’s aggressive settlement expansion and annexation plans have dealt a serious blow to any prospects of peace.
The Gaza Strip has also been under an inhumane Israeli land, air and sea siege since 2007 and witnessed three wars since 2008.
Abu Akleh was hit by a live bullet on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, according to the Palestinian health ministry and her colleagues.
The Palestinian journalist was wearing a press vest when she was killed.
Ali Samoudi, another Palestinian journalist for Al Jazeera channel, was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in the back.
In video footage of the incident, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”
Samoudi told The Associated Press they were among a group of seven reporters who went to cover the raid.
He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly marked them as reporters, and they passed by Israeli troops so the soldiers would see them and know that they were there.
He said the first shot missed them, then a second struck him, and a third killed Abu Akleh. He said there were no combatants or other civilians in the area — only the reporters and Israeli army troops.
Shaza Hanaysheh, a reporter with a Palestinian news website who was also among the reporters, gave a similar account, stressing there were no clashes or shooting in the immediate area.
She said that when the shots rang out she and Abu Akleh ran toward a tree to take shelter.
“I reached the tree before Shireen. She fell on the ground,” Hanaysheh said. “The soldiers did not stop shooting even after she fell. Every time I extended my hand to pull Shireen, the soldiers fired at us.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Information condemned what it said was a “shocking crime” committed by Israeli forces.
“The Israeli occupation has repeatedly targeted, injured and assaulted Palestinian journalists. Shireen joins other journalists that Israel killed as they worked on revealing the crimes of the Israeli occupation. The killing can never deter our people from continuing the struggle for freedom, will only shorten the life of the occupying regime and will bring us closer to freedom and an end to Israeli impunity,” it said.