Palestinian militants carry the body of Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist for Al Jazeera network, in the West Bank town of Jenin, May 11, 2022. (MAJDI MOHAMMED / AP)
JENIN, West Bank – A prominent Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter was shot dead during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, and Israel said it was launching an investigation to try to determine who killed her.
Veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, was wearing a press vest that clearly marked her as "Press" while reporting in the city of Jenin, the Qatar-based outlet said.
She was covering the latest arrest operation launched by the Israeli military amid deadly Arab attacks in Israel.
The death of a distinguished reporter who has been covering Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for over two decades at the popular news channel watched by millions in the Arab world seemed likely to add fuel to a surging conflict
The death of a distinguished reporter who has been covering Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for over two decades at the popular news channel watched by millions in the Arab world seemed likely to add fuel to a surging conflict.
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In an Al Jazeera video captured in the moments around Abu Akleh's killing, gunfire can be heard in the first few seconds before a man yells "Shireen! Shireen! Ambulance!"
The camera then moves around the corner to show Abu Akleh slumped face-forward on the ground. Other journalists are seen rushing to take cover.
Another Palestinian journalist at the scene, Ali Samoodi, was also wounded.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described Abu Akleh's death as blatant, cold-blooded murder by the Israeli military, which said dozens of Palestinian gunmen had confronted troops who arrested a Hamas militant in Jenin.
A Palestinian medical examiner, however, did not echo the accusation, declining to comment on who might have fired the round, after an autopsy was conducted in the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Abbas was making unfounded allegations, before Israel conducted a "thorough investigation."
Bennett said it appeared likely that Palestinians "firing indiscriminately" were responsible for Abu Akleh's death. But Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz later was more circumspect.
"Our initial findings from the investigation so far cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen, and I cannot exclude any option under the operational chaos on the ground," Gantz told reporters.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was "appalled" by the killing and called on "the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation" to ensure that those responsible are held accountable, deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said in a statement.
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The journalist Samoodi said Israeli forces "suddenly opened fire" towards Abu Akleh and himself during the Jenin operation. He disputed an Israeli military account that gunmen were nearby when the two were shot.
Jenin has been a main target of Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank that have often sparked clashes and brought the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or armed civilians since the beginning of the year to at least 42.