ISRAEL has been accused of “assassinating” a US Al Jazeera journalist shot dead while reporting from the West Bank.
Shireen Abu Aqleh, 51, was covering unrest in the Jenin refugee camp when she was killed and Israel has claimed it was “likely” it was Palestinian gunfire that killed her.
But the Qatar-based TV channel said Israeli forces shot Abu Aqleh deliberately and “in cold blood”.
“The Israeli occupation forces assassinated in cold blood Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Palestine,” said Al Jazeera.
It called on the international community to hold the Israeli forces accountable for their “intentional targeting and killing” of the journalist.
Another Al Jazeera journalist, producer Ali al-Samudi, was wounded in the incident, the broadcaster added.
According to photographer from the AFP agency, Abu Aqleh was wearing a press flak jacket when she was shot.
The photographer reported that Israeli forces were firing in the area and they then saw Abu Aqleh’s body lying on the ground.
There were no Palestinian gunmen visible in the area when Abu Aqleh was killed, the photographer added.
The Israeli army confirmed it had conducted an operation in the camp early Wednesday but firmly denied it had deliberately targeted a reporter.
It said there was an exchange of fire between suspects and security forces.
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The army said it was “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen”.
“The (army) of course does not aim at journalists,” a military official said.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Israel was seeking an “investigation into the sad death of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh”.
“Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,” Lapid added.
But Israeli premier Naftali Bennett laid the blame for the killing directly at the door of the Palestinians.
“According to the information we’ve gathered, it appears likely that armed Palestinians – who were indiscriminately firing at the time – were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist.”
Residents laid flowers on the roadside as the vehicle carrying her body moved towards Nablus, where an autopsy was scheduled before her burial in her native Jerusalem.
US ambassador to Israel Tomas Nides called for a “thorough investigation” into the killing of the US citizen.
The wounded Al Jazeera producer, Samudi, said there were no Palestinian fighters in the area where Abu Aqleh was shot.
In recent weeks, the army has stepped up operations in Jenin, a historic flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Several of the suspects blamed for deadly attacks on Israelis in recent weeks were from the area.
Israel has recently grappled with a wave of attacks which has killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.