Calls mounted on Wednesday for an independent probe into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead while covering an Israeli raid on a Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
Her colleague, Ali al-Samudi, was also shot and injured in the back, the Qatar-based TV channel reported.
Abu Akleh, 51, was declared dead at a hospital after being shot in the head in Jenin.
The European Union urged an “independent” investigation into her death, while the United States’ envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called for the killing to be “transparently investigated”.
The office of the UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said it was “appalled”, and also called for “an independent, transparent investigation”.
The network charged that Israeli forces deliberately and “in cold blood” shot Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and a Christian, in the head during the unrest.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it was “likely” that “armed Palestinians – who were indiscriminately firing at the time – were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist”.
Another Al Jazeera journalist, producer Ali al-Samudi, was wounded in the incident in which both wore helmets and vests marked “Press”. He later said no Palestinian fighters were nearby, stressing that otherwise “we would not have gone into the area”.
Defence Minister Benny Gantz later said that “the preliminary investigation conducted by the (army) in the last several hours indicate that no gunfire was directed at the journalist – however the investigation is ongoing”.
Army chief Aviv Kohavi said, that “at this stage, it is not possible to determine the source of the gunfire which hit her”.
Asked about Israel’s openness to an international investigation, army spokesman Amnon Shefler said the military’s internal investigative systems were “robust” and that it would conduct its own probe.
Shefler told reporters that Israel “would never deliberately target non-combatants,” calling Abu Akleh’s death “a tragedy that should not have occurred”.
Israel has however publicly offered to participate in a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority although there were no immediate indications on whether the PA would agree to a joint probe.
Abu Akleh’s body was in Ramallah on Wednesday evening, where thousands were carried her remains around the West Bank city, chanting “thank you, dear Shireen.”
In a sign of her prominence in the West Bank, residents laid flowers on the roadside as the vehicle carrying her body moved towards Nablus, where an autopsy was conducted before her eventual burial in her native Jerusalem.
Al Jazeera said in a statement that “the Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine”.
The Palestinian Authority said it held Israel “responsible” for Abu Akleh’s killing.
Her death came nearly a year after an Israeli air strike destroyed a Gaza building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and news agency AP. (Source: CNA)