Abbas: Israel 'Fully Responsible' for Journalist's Death; Bennett: 'Baseless Accusations'

UN envoy calls for 'an immediate and thorough investigation' into Al Jazeera reporter's killing during a military raid in Jenin

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Mourners, including Journalists, next to the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during an Israeli raid, in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday.
Mourners, including Journalists, next to the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh who was killed during an Israeli raid, in Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday. Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he holds Israeli forces "fully responsible" for the death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank City of Jenin.

Israel said its initial investigation of the incident, which took place during a military raid, shows Abu Akleh, 51, was possibly killed by Palestinian fire.

The U.S. ambassador to Israel confirmed Abu Akleh was an American citizen, and called for a "thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death."

Abbas "is making baseless accusations against Israel," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement, adding: "According to the information we currently have, there's a considerable chance that Palestinian gunmen who were firing recklessly caused the journalist's saddening death."

Bennett pointed to clips shared on social media that show local militants firing at what they claim was an Israeli soldier. "No soldier was hit," Bennett stressed, "which raises the possibility that they fired and hit the journalist."

Bennett also reiterated Israel's call for a joint investigation along with the Palestinian Authority, and said that "we back our fighters."

The Palestinian Authority rejected Israel's calls for a joint probe. "The criminal can't investigate their own crimes," a government spokesman told Ashams radio.

The United Arab List, an Islamist party in Israel's ruling coalition, condemned Abu Akleh's killing and called for "an immediate international probe."

Jerusalem-based Abu Akleh was hit in the head while covering the Israeli raid.

Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem said that Abu Akleh will be laid to rest on Thursday in Jerusalem.

The United Nation's Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, condemned the incident on Twitter and called for "an immediate and thorough investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable. Media workers should never be targeted."

Israeli forces were operating in the Jenin refugee camp and several other areas of the West Bank to apprehend "terror suspects," the military said. During the raid, according to the military, militants opened fire at the Israeli forces and hurled explosives at them, before the soldiers returned fire. No casualties were reported among the Israeli force.

'Deliberate targeting'

Qatar-based Al Jazeera interrupted its broadcast to announce Abu Akleh's death. In a statement flashed on its channel, it called on the international community to "condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague.”

“We pledge to prosecute the perpetrators legally, no matter how hard they try to cover up their crime, and bring them to justice,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.

Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during one of her reports from Jerusalem.Credit: - - AFP

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: "We have offered the Palestinians a joint pathological investigation into the sad death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Journalists must be protected in conflict zones, and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth."

Joint List leader Ayman Odeh called Abu Akleh a hardworking journalist who "bravely reported the crimes of the occupation, and this morning became a victim of these crimes."

Ahmad Tibi and Aida Touma-Sliman, also from the Joint List, cast doubt on the official Israeli account. Tibi took to Twitter to say that she was shot by "soldiers of the occupation and then shot again by the IDF spokesperson's false statement," while Touma-Sliman said she "trusts Journalists on the ground, and not the IDF spokesperson."

A statement by the military's Arabic-language spokesman said Palestinian gunmen were "firing indiscriminately," adding that the army is "saddened" by Abu Akleh's death and "strives to maintain the freedom of the press."

Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz tweeted that Abu Akleh was shot while working in the refugee camp, adding "this is what occupation looks like."
Kahanist leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Religious Zionism lawmaker, defended the military's actions, saying that soldiers must respond with fire when attacked "even when Al Jazeera reporters are around."

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