Calls mounted Wednesday for an independent investigation into the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead as she covered an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank.
The Qatar-based TV channel charged that Israeli forces deliberately and “in cold blood” shot Abu Akleh, 51, a Palestinian-American and a Christian, in the head during the unrest in the Jenin refugee camp.
“Our initial findings from the investigation cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen and cannot exclude any option under this operational chaos”, Gantz said. He said Palestinian gunmen in Jenin were firing from “multiple directions.”
Another Al Jazeera journalist, producer Ali al-Samudi, was wounded in the incident in which both wore helmets and vests marked “Press”.
– ‘Turned in panic’ –
Israel has offered to participate in a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, and Gantz urged the PA to provide the army with the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.
There was no indication on whether Palestinian officials were prepared to cooperate with Israel in an investigation.
Abu Akleh, who joined Al Jazeera in 1997 and whose coverage of the conflict was revered across Palestinian society, will receive a full state memorial at the Palestinian presidential compound in Ramallah on Thursday.
The Israeli army has stepped up operations in Jenin, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in recent weeks.
Witnesses in Jenin said that the Israeli army had been targeting the home of an Islamist operative, with an apartment’s heavy metal door blown off its hinges.
An AFP photographer reported that Israeli forces were firing in the area, and that he then saw Abu Akleh’s body lying on the ground, with no Palestinian gunmen visible at the time.
Al Jazeera said in a statement that “the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine”.
Tensions have risen in recent months as Israel has grappled with a wave of attacks which has killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.
In the latest unrest targeting Israeli forces, a West Bank Palestinian attempted to stab a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City late Wednesday.
The latest Palestinian death was an 18-year-old killed by Israeli troops during clashes near Ramallah on Wednesday. The army said its forces had used rubber bullets to suppress unrest.