Shireen Abu Akleh, a seasoned Al Jazeera journalist, was shot dead while covering an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank, prompting calls for an impartial investigation.
During the unrest in the Jenin refugee camp, Israeli forces shot Abu Akleh, 51, a Palestinian-American Christian, in the head “in cold blood,” according to a Qatar-based TV program.
Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister, sought to distance himself from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s earlier remarks, in which he indicated it was “probable” that Abu Akleh was killed by errant Palestinian gunfire.
“Our preliminary results from the investigation cannot establish what gunfire was directed at Shireen and cannot rule out any possibility,” Gantz added. He said that Palestinian gunmen were firing from “several directions” in Jenin.
“We don’t know how she was killed,” Gantz continued, calling Abu Akleh’s death “a tragic loss.”
Another Al Jazeera journalist, producer Ali al-Samudi, was hurt in the incident, and both were wearing “Press” helmets and vests.
“We would not have gone into the area if there were no Palestinian fighters there,” Samudi claimed.
The European Union called for a “independent” probe, while Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US representative to the UN, demanded that the killing be “transparently investigated,” a demand echoed by UN human rights director Michelle Bachelet.
Israel has promised to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority in an inquiry, and Gantz has encouraged the PA to furnish the IDF with the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.
Israel is seeking the findings of the Palestinian autopsy, which was done in Nablus earlier Wednesday, according to Gantz.
There was no sign that Palestinian officials were willing to help with a probe by Israel.
“It is not feasible to make any conclusion regarding who bears blame,” Rayyan Ali, a forensic pathologist at Al Najah University in Nablus, told reporters, “since specifics of the weapon and ammunition used have not been completely investigated by professionals.”
On Thursday, Abu Akleh, who joined Al Jazeera in 1997 and was well praised for her coverage of the conflict, will be honored with a full state monument at the Palestinian presidential palace in Ramallah.
Thousands sang “thank you, dear Shireen” as her body was carried through the city on Wednesday evening.
In recent weeks, the Israeli army has increased operations in Jenin, a longstanding hotspot in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Several of the suspects accused of killing Israelis came from the region.
Witnesses in Jenin stated the Israeli army targeted an Islamist operative’s residence, with a massive metal door blown off its hinges.
Witness Majid Awais told AFP that Abu Akleh “turned in terror” when she saw her colleague Samudi had been shot, and that she was hit by the fatal bullet moments later.
Israeli forces began firing in the area, according to an AFP photographer, who subsequently noticed Abu Akleh’s body laying on the ground with no Palestinian gunmen in sight.
“The Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
Her death came nearly a year after an Israeli air strike demolished the headquarters of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press in Gaza.
Tensions have grown in recent months as Israel has dealt with a series of attacks that has killed at least 18 people, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians, since March 22.
According to an AFP tally, 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs perished during the same period, including attackers and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.
A West Bank Palestinian attempted to knife an Israeli police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City late Wednesday, in the latest violence targeting Israeli soldiers.
According to authorities, officers opened fire, injuring the attacker severely.
On Wednesday, an 18-year-old Palestinian was murdered by Israeli troops amid skirmishes near Ramallah. The army claimed that rubber bullets were used to quell dissent.
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