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May 26, 2022 4:43 pm

Gantz: PA Probe’s Claim That Israel Targeted Al Jazeera Reporter Is ‘Blatant Lie’

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at Reichman University on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Ariel Hermoni / IMoD

The Palestinian Authority said Thursday that its investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh showed she had been deliberately killed by IDF troops, a claim Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz rejected as a “blatant lie.”

The 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist was fatally shot in Jenin, in the West Bank, on May 11, while covering IDF counterterrorism operations that followed a deadly string of terror attacks in Israel. Palestinian leaders quickly accused Israeli forces of killing her, while Israel has said it remains unclear whether she was shot by inadvertent Israeli or Palestinian fire during a gun-battle, and has condemned the PA for refusing to make the bullet found in her body available for a ballistics examination.

“The IDF is conducting an ongoing investigation into the matter in order to reveal the truth,” stated Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “Any claim that the IDF intentionally harms journalists or uninvolved civilians, is a blatant lie.”

In a press conference earlier Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s attorney general claimed that Abu Akleh was intentionally shot in the head by an Israeli soldier as she was trying to flee from a barrage of fire. Citing interviews with witnesses, an inspection of the scene and a forensic medical report, the PA held that there were no Palestinian militants at the scene of the shooting.

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The IDF has said that there was an intense exchange of fire between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces in Jenin at the time, and has repeatedly sought the PA’s cooperation for a joint probe, with US oversight, to reconstruct the events, a request the Palestinians have refused.

“Investigations and briefings are not carried out at press conferences, but rather in closed rooms, and while transmitting information,” said Gantz.

“The Palestinians refuse to cooperate, which raises the question of whether they really want to uncover the truth. Anyone who conducts counterterrorism operations while avoiding harm to civilians, would want to know the truth and would consider what can be done to save human lives,” Gantz lamented. “Even today, I call on the Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullet and all their findings.”

“To this day, we are prepared and willing to conduct an investigation in collaboration with international actors,” he added.

The presentation of the PA findings comes after a CNN report on Tuesday claimed to present “new video evidence and eyewitness testimony” suggesting that Abu Akleh was shot in a “targeted attack by Israeli forces.”

“Unilateral investigations and attempts to charge IDF soldiers with war crimes while promoting false assessments such as the one published by CNN, undermine the ability to achieve peace and stability in the region, while ultimately boosting  terrorism,” Gantz asserted on Thursday.

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