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The West Bank Palestinian Authority has rejected an offer by Israel for a joint probe into the death of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al-Sheikh on Thursday wrote on twitter that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will conduct its own investigation and will subsequently inform Qatar and the United States of its findings.
Abu Akleh was shot and killed on Wednesday while reporting on an Israeli Army counter-terrorism operation in the city of Jenin in the West Bank.
In addition to the request for a joint investigation, Israeli authorities requested a handing over of the bullet that fatally struck Abu Akleh in the head and the helmet she was wearing at the time of her death. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated that Israel will conduct a full scale investigation and forensic analysis into her death but have been impeded by Palestinian denials for cooperation.
Despite the refusal to hold a joint investigation and the withholding of forensic evidence, Al-Sheikh wrote “all indications, evidence and witnesses confirm her [Abu Akleh] assassination by Israeli special units.”
The immediate attribution of blame on the Israelis for the incident contradicts a Palestinian forensic expert’s Wednesday statement that it is “not possible” to derive who is responsible for Abu Akleh’s death as the Palestinian forensic team still needs to evaluate evidence to answer this question, The Algemeiner writes.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas placed blame on Israeli forces for the death of Abu Akleh at a state funeral procession on Thursday which began at Ramallah and extended to Jerusalem. Abbas stated that he would go to the International Criminal Court to prosecute those responsible for the journalist’s death which he claims are Israeli forces.
Citing alleged indiscriminate shooting from Palestinian terrorists in contrast to controlled fire by Israeli forces, Israeli officials stated Akleh was likely shot by Palestinian gunmen.
“For several hours thereafter, leading Israeli political and military figures declared that it was likely Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian gunfire, before IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi, while noting that IDF troops came under ‘wild, indiscriminate’ Palestinian fire, clarified that, at this stage, it was simply ‘not possible to determine whose gunfire she was hit by, and we are sorry for her death,” The Times of Israel writes.
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Following a heightened uptick in terror attacks from the area, Israeli forces have increased their presence in Jenin. In an op-ed for the Times of Israel titled “The narratives are set in the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. We need the truth,” David Horovitz questions why Israeli officials failed to explain the context behind the Wednesday operation. Horovitz explains that Israeli officials seemingly left this crucial information out of their public responses to the situation and as to why the Wednesday raid was conducted in the first place.
“Very little was said by Israeli officials about the specific context for the army operation — the reason the IDF was there in the first place. The army has escalated its activities in the Jenin area in recent weeks to try to prevent more of the stream of recent terror attacks, several of which — including the fatal shootings of three Israelis at a central Tel Aviv bar on April 7, and the axe murders of three more Israelis in Elad last week — were carried out by Palestinians from Jenin and its environs. A point quite important to make, one would think, when trying to explain to a non-expert watching world the death of a journalist caught up in a gunfight.”
US State Department Spokesman Ned Price stated that Israel has the capabilities to conduct a “thorough and comprehensive” investigation. Although as it stands, a joint investigation between Israel and Palestine seems unlikely.
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