Palestinians carry the flag-draped body of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Ramallah on Wednesday. (Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Image
(CNSNews.com) – Amid widespread condemnation of the killing of a Palestinian-American journalist, shot dead in the West Bank, Israel’s ambassador to Washington called out Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for accusing Israel of having “murdered” her before an investigation has established what happened.
Israeli government and Israeli Defense Force officials have said they do not know if Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a U.S. citizen, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier during a raid in Jenin or by Palestinian gunmen who had engaged the IDF in a firefight.
But speaking to reporters late on Wednesday Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed regret over Abu Akleh’s death and promised a thorough investigation, saying Israel’s goal was to uncover the truth.
The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying that he hoped for “full cooperation from the Palestinians because without the pathological findings and the forensic findings it will be very hard to understand what happened.”
A Palestinian pathologist involved in a post mortem at a Nablus university lab was quoted as saying it was not possible yet to say whether the Israeli army was responsible “because the team at the forensic laboratory has to study the evidence to answer this question.”
Condemnation of Israel poured in from many quarters, with some critics charging or insinuating that the killing was intentional.
“Israel’s assassination of Shireen is part of its well-documented and widely acknowledged war and incitement against Palestinian journalists,” said the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) foreign ministry, while the P.A. information ministry suggested Abu Akleh had been targeted for “revealing the crimes of the Israeli occupation.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation accused Israel of “targeting” the journalist “while on duty reporting facts and documenting crimes committed against the Palestinian people.”
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh condemned “the deliberate targeting of Ms. Shireen Abu Akleh, the famous reporter of Al Jazeera news channel in occupied Palestine by the Zionist regime forces.”
Tlaib who called for a moment of silence on the House floor in honor of Abu Akleh, weighed in on Twitter: “When will the world and those who stand by Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes finally say: ‘Enough’? Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability.”
Responding to her tweet, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said, “One would expect a member of Congress to support our call for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation of this tragic event, rather than rushing to a biased conclusion. Acting as the judge, jury and executioner undermines the causes of justice and peace.”
Gantz told reporters that the IDF raid was in response to a wave of terrorism in which 19 Israelis were killed.
Herzog said the deadly attacks had been “planned, orchestrated and carried out from Jenin. The IDF went there to thwart another act of terror and was attacked by heavily armed ‘Islamic Jihad’ terrorists.”
On Thursday morning, the willingness of the P.A. to cooperate with Israel in the investigation was looking doubtful.
A senior P.A. official, Hussein Al Sheikh, tweeted, “Israel has requested a joint investigation and to be handed over the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen, we refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently.”
Al Sheikh said the results of the P.A.’s investigation would be made available to the family, U.S. and other authorities, and the public “with high transparency.”
“All of the indicators, the evidence and the witnesses confirm her assassination by Israeli special units,” he said.
A video clip aired by Al Jazeera showed Abu Akleh, wearing a dark blue flak jacket emblazoned with the word “Press,” lying unmoving near a wall while another journalist, similarly dressed, huddled nearby. Ongoing gunfire could be heard.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Abu Akleh’s death was “a tragic loss and an affront to media freedom everywhere,” saying the U.S. was calling for “an immediate and thorough investigation and full accountability.”
He told a press briefing that senior officials at the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem had been in touch with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts during the day.
Asked if the administration believed Abu Akleh was targeted because she was a journalist, Price said, “I’m not going to prejudge an investigation. That’s precisely why we’re calling for an investigation.”
“We are going to wait to hear where the facts lead in this case, and importantly, to see the accountability that is mounted in the aftermath of that investigation.”
Price expressed confidence in Israel’s ability to carry out a proper investigation.
“Israel has the wherewithal and the capability to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation,” he said. “They’ve done it before and we expect they’ll do so in this case.”