PA reject Israeli request to conduct joint investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh killing after 'cover up'
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday rejected an Israeli request to hold a joint investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, saying it would not hand over the bullet that killed her for ballistic analysis after mounting evidence of a cover-up by Israel.
Witnesses have said Israel deliberately shot dead the reporter and fired at other journalists trying to rescue her.
They have also pointed out the 'false' narrative promoted by the Israeli government about the event, which tried to deflect blame from its soldiers.
Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Palestinians would conduct their own independent probe and that all parties would be informed of "the results of the investigation with high transparency".
Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera journalist, was shot and killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank. The broadcaster said Israeli forces intentionally targeted Abu Akleh and witnesses said she was "murdered" by Israeli snipers.
Israeli officials initially suggested that Abu Akleh may have been killed by militant fire, but after mounting evidence against this narrative, stepped back from these 'false' claims.
Abu Akleh's death was met by an outpouring of grief across the West Bank. Her body was to be taken to the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah on Thursday before being brought to Jerusalem for burial on Friday.
The killing sparked condemnations from around the globe. UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has called for "an independent and transparent investigation" to ensure those responsible are held to account.
Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz, on Wednesday promised such an inquiry, saying he was in touch with US and Palestinian officials and hoped for cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We are trying to figure out exactly what happened," he said. "I don’t have final conclusions."
Abu Akleh’s death could draw new scrutiny of Israel’s military justice system, which is being examined as part of a war crimes probe conducted by the International Criminal Court. It also threatened to further strain often rocky relations between the army and the international media.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a highly respected and familiar face in the Middle East, known for her coverage on Al Jazeera Arabic of the harsh realities of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian Territories. She was widely recognised in the occupied West Bank and was also a US citizen.