Palestinians planned a memorial service yesterday for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank, but have rejected US-led calls for a joint investigation into her death.
Palestinian-American Abu Akleh, 51, a veteran of Qatar-based al-Jazeera’s Arabic TV service, was shot in the head during clashes in the Jenin refugee camp, a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz on Wednesday said that it could have been “the Palestinians who shot her” or fire from “our side” — appearing to walk back Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks that she was “likely” killed by stray Palestinian gunfire.
“We are not certain how she was killed, but we want to get to the bottom of this incident and to uncover the truth as much as we can,” Gantz told reporters.
Al-Jazeera, Palestinian officials and witnesses said that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces, and the network insisted she was targeted “deliberately” and “in cold blood.”
Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation into the killing and asked Palestinian authorities to hand over the bullet that struck Abu Akleh for forensic examination.
An Israeli security source told reporters that Israel was prepared to examine the projectile in front of Palestinian and US officials, “out of transparency.”
The EU has urged an “independent” probe, while the US demanded that the killing be “transparently investigated,” calls echoed by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
An initial autopsy and forensic examination were conducted in Nablus in the Israel-occupied West Bank hours after her death, but no final conclusions have been disclosed.
Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, a close confident of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has ruled out a joint investigation.
“Israel has requested a joint investigation and to be handed over the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen. We refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently,” al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter.
“We will inform her family, #USA, #Qatar and all official authorities and the public of the results of the investigation with high transparency. All of the indicators, the evidence and the witnesses confirm her assassination by #Israeli special units,” he wrote.
Abu Akleh rose to prominence among Arabic audiences after joining al-Jazeera in 1997 and through her coverage of the second Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, from 2000 to 2005.
“She was the sister of all Palestinians,” her brother Antoun told reporters at the family home in east Jerusalem. “What happened cannot be silenced... She will not be forgotten.”
In a sign of her status among Palestinians, she was to receive what the Palestinians labeled a full state memorial at the presidential compound in Ramallah yesterday.
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