A journalist was shot dead and another injured while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who worked for Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel, was shot dead in the city of Jenin early Wednesday and died shortly after.
Another Palestinian Journalist Ali Al-Samudi was hospitalized in stable condition after being shot in the back.
In video footage of the incident, Ms Abu Akleh, 51, who is also a US citizen, can be seen wearing a blue body armor clearly marked with the word “PRESS”.
While the Palestinian Health Ministry said the journalists were hit by Israeli fire, the Israeli military said it was “investigating” the event and examining the possibility that the journalists were hit by “the Palestinian armed men”.
In a statement flashed on its channel, Al Jazeera accuses Israel and called on the international community to “condemn and hold accountable the Israeli occupation forces for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh”.
The Israeli army said its forces came under heavy fire and explosives while operating in the city, and they retaliated.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he was offering a joint pathology investigation into the journalist’s death to the Palestinian Authority, which had refused the offer.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that based on the information they had already gathered “there is a good chance that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, were the ones who caused the unfortunate death of the journalist”.
Mr Samudi, who worked as Ms Abu Akleh’s producer, said they were among a group of seven journalists who went to cover the raid early Wednesday.
He said the first shot missed them, the second hit him and a third killed his colleague, adding that there were no militants or other civilians in the area – only journalists and the army.
Mr Samudi said the army’s suggestion that they were shot by militants is a “complete lie”.
Shatha Hanaysha, a reporter for a Palestinian news site, also said there were no clashes or gunfire in the immediate area.
She said that when the shots rang out, she and Ms. Abu Akleh ran to a tree for cover.
“I reached the tree before Shireen. She fell to the ground,” Ms Hanaysheh said.
“The soldiers didn’t stop shooting even after he fell. Every time I reached out to shoot Shireen, the soldiers shot at us.”
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Twitter: “I encourage a full investigation into the circumstances of his death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin.”
Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim told the broadcaster that Ms Abu Akleh, who was born in Jerusalem, was a “highly respected journalist” who had worked with the channel since 2000.
The British Consulate General in Jerusalem said it was “shocked” by Ms Abu Akleh’s death, adding that “media freedom and the safety of journalists are essential and must be respected”.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in recent weeks against a backdrop series of deadly attacks inside Israelmany of which were carried out by Palestinians from Jenin and surrounding areas.
The city, and in particular its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant stronghold.
Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, and the Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of their future state.
Nearly three million Palestinians live in the territory under Israeli military rule.
Israel has built more than 130 settlements across the West Bank that house nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers, who have full Israeli citizenship.
Israelis have long been critical of Al Jazeera’s coverage, but authorities generally allow its journalists to operate freely.