A journalist for Al Jazeera was shot and killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin.
Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known Palestinian female reporter for the broadcaster’s Arabic language channel, died soon after being shot early on Wednesday.
Ali Samoudi, another Palestinian journalist, was hospitalised in stable condition after being shot in the back.
The broadcaster blamed Israeli forces but Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said she was “probably” killed by Palestinian gunfire.
The Qatar-based Al Jazeera network interrupted its broadcast to announce her death. In a statement flashed on its channel, it called on the international community to “condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague”.
“We pledge to prosecute the perpetrators legally, no matter how hard they try to cover up their crime, and bring them to justice,” Al Jazeera said in a statement.
The Israeli military said its forces came under attack with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they fired back. The military said it is “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen”.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that based on the information they had already gathered, “there is a considerable chance that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, were the ones who brought about the journalist’s unfortunate death”.
Israeli officials said there was video footage of Palestinian gunmen boasting that they had killed a soldier, but that no Israelis were wounded in the incident, indicating they shot a journalist.
Israel said it had proposed a joint investigation and autopsy with the Palestinian Authority, which refused the offer.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters, condemned what it said was a “shocking crime” committed by Israeli forces.
The European Union condemned Abu Akleh’s death and demanded an independent inquiry.
“It is essential that a thorough and independent investigation clarifies all the circumstances of these incidents as soon as possible and that those responsible are brought to justice,” said foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano.
Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on camera from across the Palestinian territories. In video footage of the incident, Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word “PRESS.”
Samoudi, who was working as her producer, told The Associated Press they were among a group of seven reporters who went to cover the raid early on Wednesday. He said they were all wearing protective gear that clearly marked them as reporters, and they passed by Israeli troops so the soldiers would see them and know that they were there.
He said the first shot missed them, then a second struck him, and a third killed Abu Akleh. He said there were no militants or other civilians in the area — only the reporters and the army.
He said the military’s suggestion that they were shot by militants was a “complete lie”.
Shaza Hanaysheh, a journalist with a Palestinian news website who was also among the reporters, gave a similar account in an interview with Al Jazeera’s Arabic channel, saying there were no clashes or shooting in the immediate area.
She said that when the shots rang out she and Abu Akleh ran toward a tree to take shelter.
“I reached the tree before Shireen. She fell on the ground,” Hanaysheh said. “The soldiers did not stop shooting even after she fell. Every time I extended my hand toward Shireen, the soldiers fired at us.”
Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, an Israeli commander, told army radio that the two journalists were “armed with cameras” and standing near Palestinian gunmen. He said the militants were “unprofessional people, terrorists, who were shooting at our troops” and likely hit the reporters instead.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from in and around Jenin. The town, and particularly its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant bastion.