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Shireen Abu Akleh did the stories no one wanted to do, says colleague

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In the West Bank city of Ramallah today, thousands gathered to mourn Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. The veteran journalist was shot and killed yesterday while reporting on an Israeli military raid of a Palestinian refugee camp. Over the course of her career, Abu Akleh, who was Palestinian American, became a household name in the Arabic-speaking world, one of the most respected reporters covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We reached journalist Dalia Hatuqa, who also covers the Middle East, who was a friend and colleague of Abu Akleh's, and asked why she was so well-regarded.

DALIA HATUQA: I would say that Shireen was welcomed into Palestinian homes, mainly for two reasons. First, she was extremely humble and down-to-earth and didn't know how much of a shining star she was. And the second reason was that she wanted to do the stories that nobody else wanted to do. So she would cover stories big and small. You know, people would tell her, like, Shireen, you know, you're a senior reporter. Like, why are you covering the death of this Palestinian kid? And, you know, maybe send somebody else. And she would never hesitate to go and, like, meet up with the families and go to the mourning tent. And that's kind of part of her legacy.

KELLY: Sounds like you're not surprised that she would have been right in the middle of it yesterday trying to report on a military raid, this Israeli raid on a Palestinian refugee camp.

HATUQA: She didn't put herself in harm's way, and she didn't put her team in harm's way. If you look at the video of the incident from yesterday, she was wearing a vest that had press on it, and she had a helmet on. And the shot came through the back of her neck right in that space between the vest and the helmet. So she didn't really stand a chance, and she didn't have time to take cover. But yeah, she wanted to do those stories. And with that, there's always a gamble.

KELLY: She was with another journalist, her colleague Ali Samoudi. He was shot in the back. He is recovering. He's called for an independent investigation. And Israel says it will investigate. Who could carry out a credible, independent investigation in your view?

HATUQA: As far as I'm concerned, anybody. I think it should be somebody who who understands weapons, ballistics because basically, an autopsy that was carried out on Shireen's body yielded a bullet. And it's important to find out, like what that bullet is, where it came from, what kind of weapon was used to fire it.

KELLY: I know this has just happened. The grief must feel raw. But I wonder, have you given thought yet to how you will remember her, how you might pay tribute to her as you continue your own work?

HATUQA: I'd like to remember her as basically somebody who was such a happy person, who loved life, who loved to party, who loved animals and pets. But also, I want to remember her as a Palestinian and as a trailblazer and as a symbol and as a journalist. I don't want to remember her as somebody who I saw getting killed in a video.

KELLY: That is journalist Dalia Hatuqa remembering her friend and colleague Shireen Abu Akleh. Thank you.

HATUQA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.