A reporter was killed on Wednesday during a raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin. The Palestinians accuse Israel, while Israel says the journalist was likely killed by Palestinian militants.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, a Jerusalem-based journalist for Al Jazeera, was hit in the head by live fire. The Israeli military said in a statement that it was looking into "the possibility that the reporters were hit by shots fired by Palestinian gunmen."
Al Jazeera's office in Jerusalem said that Abu Akleh will be laid to rest on Thursday in Jerusalem.
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."
A second reporter, Ali Samodi, sustained a gunshot wound to the back and is in stable condition, the Health Ministry said.
Samodi, working for the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper, told Haaretz that he and Abu Akleh were clearly identified as reporters, wearing their press vests, when they were shot at. In video footage of the incident, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”
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.
Abu Akleh, a well-known reporter for the Qatar-based broadcaster's Arabic language channel, has been working for Al Jazeera since 1997, covering major Palestinian and Israeli events, including the second intifada.
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he holds Israeli forces "fully responsible" for Abu Akleh's death.
Al Jazeera said she was killed "in cold blood," in what the network called a "horrifying crime that breaches international norms."
A senior Palestinian official said she was "martyred by the bullets of the Israeli occupation." The Palestinian Authority's Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh added in a tweet: "The crime of silencing the word is committed yet again, and the truth is murdered by the bullets of the occupation."
'Indiscriminate' Palestinian fire
"I don't think we killed her," Ran Kochav, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, told Kan public broadcaster. "We proposed to the Palestinians to open a swift joint probe. If we indeed killed her, we'll take responsibility, but it doesn't seem to be the case."
"If the Palestinians cooperate we'll have better answers," Kochav said, arguing "they might have a good reason" not to. According to him, "the Red Crescent took the body away" immediately after the shooting.
According to the military's Arabic-language spokesman, footage shared on social media shows Palestinian gunmen in Jenin "boasting about hitting a soldier lying on the ground," but no Israeli soldiers were hit at all.
Palestinian gunmen were "firing indiscriminately," spokesman Avichay Adraee said, adding that the army is "saddened" by Abu Akleh's death and "strives to maintain the freedom of the press."
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said an initial investigation by the military found no indication that the Israeli forces fired at the journalists.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from in and around Jenin. The town and particularly its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant bastion.
Relations between Israeli forces and the media, especially Palestinian journalists, are strained. A number of Palestinian reporters have been wounded by rubber-coated bullets or tear gas while covering demonstrations in the West Bank. A Palestinian journalist in Gaza was shot and killed by Israeli forces while filming violent protests along the Gaza frontier in 2018.
In November of that year, Associated Press reporter Rashed Rashid was covering a protest near the Gaza frontier when he was shot in the left ankle, apparently by Israeli fire. Rashid was wearing protective gear that clearly identified him as a journalist, and was standing with a crowd of other journalists some 600 meters (660 yards) away from the Israeli border when he was hit. The military has never acknowledged the shooting.
During last year’s war between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, an Israeli airstrike destroyed the building in Gaza City housing the offices of The Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Residents were warned to evacuate and no one was hurt in the strike. Israel said Hamas was using the building as a command center but has provided no evidence.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.