Tuesday, January 31st | 10 Shevat 5783

May 11, 2022 9:08 am

Investigation Ongoing Into Death of Al Jazeera Journalist Covering West Bank Raid, Israeli Officials Say

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Palestinians hold pictures of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an IDF raid in the West Bank on May 11, 2022. Israeli military said Abu Akleh may have been shot by Palestinians as they clashed with its troops. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

Senior Israeli officials said Wednesday an investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was reporting on an IDF raid in the West Bank is continuing, after initial findings suggested a “reasonable chance” that she was killed by Palestinian militant fire.

“We are examining the possibility that the gunfire that led to the journalist’s death came from Palestinian militants … [but] at this stage it is not possible to determine from which fire she was hit, and we are sorry for her death,” said IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi in a statement.

Kochavi said he had appointed a dedicated force to fully investigate the incident.

According to footage posted on social media, Abu Akleh and a colleague who was injured while covering the Israeli raid in Jenin were both wearing helmets and bulletproof vests bearing the word “Press.” Al Jazeera and the colleague who was at the scene accused Israel of killing the 51-year-old Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American reporter for the news channel.

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“Preliminary findings from the investigation conducted by the IDF in the last several hours indicate that no gunfire was directed at the journalist — however the investigation is ongoing,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said earlier on Wednesday. “Findings at this time indicate that there is a reasonable chance that the journalist was shot by Palestinian armed terrorists.”

Gantz emphasized that “IDF troops would never intentionally harm members of the press, and any attempt to imply otherwise is baseless.”

“We have seen footage of indiscriminate shooting by Palestinian terrorists, which is likely to have hit the journalist,” Gantz said.

Gantz announced that Israel will communicate the findings of its investigation into the incident and how it unfolded in a “clear and transparent manner to our American friends, as well as to the Palestinian Authority.”

In a briefing with journalists, an IDF spokesperson called Abu Akleh’s death a “a tragedy which should not have not occurred.”

Since the incident, Israel said it offered to conduct a joint investigation with Palestinian authorities to determine the exact facts about the shooting, a proposal that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said has so far been refused.

“We are committed to finding the truth about what occurred and we will do everything possible to thoroughly investigate this event,” the IDF spokesperson said. “A thorough investigation together with the PA that includes an autopsy, I believe if we will do that then we will definitely get to the truth.”

The IDF spokesperson said that the IDF and special security forces entered Jenin to apprehend a Hamas militant involved in terrorist activity, amid a spiraling wave of deadly attacks in the country in recent weeks.

“Dozens of terrorists in the area fired indiscriminately, directing a large wave of reckless gunfire and hurling explosives at IDF soldiers endangering everyone in the area,” the IDF spokesperson said. “We are aware of reports that Abu Akleh was shot at this time of exchange of fire.”

Initial findings suggest that there were three direct exchanges of gunfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants, he added.

The Israeli army together with special defense forces have in recent weeks carried out a number of counterterrorism operations in the West Bank, after 19 Israelis were murdered in a string of terrorist attacks since mid-March.

“Many of these terrorist attacks originated from the northern Samaria and specifically the Jenin area,” the IDF spokesperson remarked. “Jenin is a stronghold for Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”

“Over 50 percent of the many intelligence indications of terrorist threats and attacks originate from the Jenin area. The terrorists who carried out the Bnei Brak attack and the Tel Aviv shootings, as well as last week’s attack in Elad all came from the Jenin area,” he added.

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