Israel Slams Palestinian Authority for Rejecting Joint Probe Into Reporter’s Death
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday said the Palestinian Authority is “preventing any possibility of a joint investigation” to determine whether Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian or Israeli gunfire, and withholding “access to the basic findings that would be necessary in order to reach the truth.”
Abu Akleh, 51, was fatally shot while covering an Israeli counter-terrorism operation on Wednesday in Jenin. Several deadly attacks against Israeli civilians originated from the Palestinian city during the recent terror wave, which has killed 19 people since March.
The PA swiftly blamed Israeli forces for her death, calling it an “assassination,” though a Palestinian forensics expert said on Wednesday that it was not yet possible to assign culpability based on an initial autopsy. The emir of Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, likewise accused Israel of killing the Palestinian-American journalist while speaking at a press conference in Iran on Thursday.
Israeli officials have, in turn, said dozens of Palestinian gunmen, including members of Islamic Jihad, opened “indiscriminate” fire at Israeli forces during the operation and may have killed Abu Akleh, though the evidence remains inconclusive without further investigation. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday night that the government is seeking to carry out a forensic exam of the bullet that was pulled from Abu Akleh’s body to get definitive answers, and to share findings with both PA and American authorities.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday “we rejected” Israel’s request for a joint investigation, however, “because they committed the crime and because we don’t trust them. The PA “will go immediately to the International Criminal Court in order to track down the criminals,” he said.
Officials in the Biden administration were continuing to press Palestinian officials on the matter, Israel’s Channel 11 reported Thursday, with Israeli officials telling American counterparts that without Palestinian cooperation and a review of the bullet, it would be near impossible to establish the truth of the incident.
In a video released Thursday, Keren Hajioff, a spokeswoman for Bennett, reiterated that Abu Akleh’s death was “a tragedy,” and took issue with the PA’s refusal to share evidence. “Why are they rejecting a joint investigation? What exactly are they trying to hide?” she asked.
“Without any concrete evidence, hasty accusations against Israel that are being made right now are misleading and irresponsible,” she added.