Report: Israel, Palestinians in Talks for Joint Probe of Journalist’s Death

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

By Zalman Ahnsaf

YERUSHALAYIM – Fending off accusations that Israel was to blame for the death of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told Channel 12 news on Wednesday night that he believes international players have accepted Israel’s position that it is not yet clear who is responsible.

Despite earlier reports that the Palestinians had rejected an Israeli offer to cooperate in an investigation of the incident, Channel 13 reported that the two sides were now engaged in serious talks for a joint probe.

Lapid said that Israel’s offer of a joint investigation has helped it show it is willing to seriously look into the circumstances surrounding the reporter’s fatal shooting during an IDF raid in Jenin Wednesday morning, as troops responded to gunfire aimed at them.

Media reports also confirm that the responsibility for her death remains undetermined, saying that the bullet extracted from Abu Akleh’s body during a Palestinian autopsy was a 5.56mm caliber M16 bullet—but that M16s are used by both Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen, leaving the origin of the fatal bullet still unknown.

Channel 13 cited an unnamed Israeli security source who said that a ballistics probe, which could pinpoint the trajectory of fire, is needed to determine whether Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli or Palestinian gunfire.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield tweeted: “I send my deepest condolences to her family,” and recalled being interviewed by the “well- respected” Abu Akleh late last year and called her death as “really horrifying.”

“We must ensure journalists performing critical work amidst conflict are protected, and we call for an immediate and thorough investigation into this tragedy,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Earlier in the day, State Department spokesman Ned Price issued the same call.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan issued a statement saying that “the Palestinian Authority rushed to blame Israel without even the ability to know the facts.

“That is why we called on the Palestinian Authority to be transparent and agree to a joint investigation…Her death is a tragedy but no one should use it for political gains, especially those who violate human rights on a daily basis,” said Erdan.

Later, on Wednesday night, the officer in charge of the Central Command area that includes Jenin, Maj-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, described to Channel 13, the mayhem in Jenin:

“Hundreds, even thousands of bullets” were fired by the IDF and by Palestinian gunmen in Wednesday’s gun battle,” and “I don’t know which bullet” hit Shireen Abu Akleh. “I am sorry for every innocent person who is hurt in the course of IDF operations. We do our best to avoid it,” he said. “And I’m sorry about the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“Sometimes… when you’re fighting in a refugee camp, and dozens of [gunmen] are coming at you and firing from 270 degrees, from almost all directions, sometimes innocent people do get harmed. The journalist Shireen, who was really very close to the line where the forces were — ours and the Palestinian terrorists — was hurt there.”

Fuchs explained his task in the area: “I am the Central Command general. I’m responsible for ensuring that terrorist attacks do not come out of Jenin. I’m responsible for sending combat troops, risking their lives, into the Jenin refugee camp to extricate people who are planning terror attacks, people who have carried out attacks, and people who are making weaponry to harm Israelis.”

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