LONDON: A Palestinian-American journalist who was killed covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank may have been shot by a soldier, the Israel Defense Forces has admitted.
Shireen Abu Akleh, who worked for Qatari TV news network Al Jazeera, was reporting on clashes between the IDF and Palestinians at a refugee camp in the town of Jenin.
She had been in the area alongside other journalists, all of whom were wearing civilian clothing, blue helmets and flak vests with the word “Press” clearly visible on them.
Ali Samoudi, a producer for Al Jazeera who was caught in the crossfire with Abu Akleh, and was shot in the back during the incident, claimed it was IDF soldiers who opened fire on them, telling the network: “We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming.”
An IDF official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post that the military was investigating the possibility Abu Akleh was killed by one of its soldiers. He added that soldiers involved in the incident had had their rifles confiscated for ballistics testing.
“A soldier with a rifle and a very good aiming system was shooting toward a terrorist with an M16, in very good condition, very clear picture, that was shooting on our troops. What we are checking now is the location of Shireen,” the official told the Post.
The admission marks a change in tone from Israel, after the prime minister, Naftali Bennett, as well as other senior government figures and institutions, initially suggested Abu Akleh had been killed by Palestinian gunmen, after a video circulated on social media appearing to show Palestinians firing down an alleyway during the clash.
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, however, used geolocation of the footage to show that Abu Akleh had been shot a considerable distance away from where it was filmed.
Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz subsequently suggested that Abu Akleh could conceivably have been shot by either side in the clash.
The Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani blamed Israel for Abu Akleh’s death, saying: “We must hold the perpetrators of this heinous crime accountable.”
On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians gathered in Ramallah to mourn Abu Akleh, a well-known and respected journalist, whose death drew condolences from colleagues around the world.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would take the case to the International Criminal Court, adding that the PA did not trust Israel because “(they) are the ones who committed the crime.”