(JNS and combined sources) Israel’s defense minister said that preliminary findings from the military’s investigation into the shooting death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin indicate that she was not killed by Israeli forces.
Addressing the Knesset, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “on the other hand, we have seen footage of indiscriminate shooting by Palestinian terrorists, which is likely to have hit the journalist.” However, he emphasized that the investigation into the tragic event was ongoing.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in response to the incident that “according to information that we have, there is a considerable chance that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, are the ones who caused the unfortunate death of the journalist.”
The Palestinian gunmen had been captured on film saying, “We hit a soldier, he’s lying on the ground,” but no Israeli soldiers were hit during the clash, said Bennett. “[This] raises the possibility that they fired on and hit the journalist,” he added.
Akleh was shot in the head while covering an Israeli counter-terror raid in Jenin, according to Al Jazeera. She was killed during an exchange of fire between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian gunmen, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
Akleh “was hit by a live bullet while covering Israeli raids in the city of Jenin and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition,” according to the Qatar-based media outlet, citing the Palestinian Health Ministry, which attributed her killing to the Israeli Defense Forces.
“I would like to express my sorrow at the loss of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” said Gantz. “The State of Israel values the protection of human life above all, as well as freedom of press. IDF troops would never intentionally harm members of the press, and any attempt to imply otherwise is baseless.”
Gantz also expressed his support for “our defense forces and to all the units that work solely to maintain our security and to reflect the truth,” adding, “We will communicate our findings in a clear and transparent manner to our American friends, as well as to the Palestinian Authority.”
In a message to P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli defense minister said, “Our responsibility as leaders is to maintain security, to conduct ourselves in a way that will prevent further violence and bloodshed and to uncover the truth.”
The U.S. State Department tweeted: “We are heartbroken by and strongly condemn the killing of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. The investigation must be immediate and thorough and those responsible must be held accountable. Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere.”