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Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during Israeli raid on West Bank

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JENIN, West Bank – Israeli forces killed a Palestinian-American journalist for the Al Jazeera news network in the West Bank early Wednesday, according to the network and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as the latest victim of a month-long escalation of violence in Israel – Palestinian conflict.

Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, a longtime Al Jazeera correspondent, was shot in the head while covering Israeli raids at the Jenin refugee camp, according to the network and the ministry. She was taken to a hospital before dying of her wounds.

The Israeli army said it was involved in a clash in the camp and investigated the possibility that “she was shot by a Palestinian gunman.”

In a statement, Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of killing Abu Akleh “in cold blood” and said she had “clearly been wearing a press jacket identifying her as a journalist.”

Another journalist, Ali al-Samudi, who works for the Jerusalem-based newspaper Al-Quds, was shot in the back and in stable condition, the health ministry said. Two other Palestinians were taken to a hospital in moderate condition, doctors added.

In its statement, the Israeli military said it was in the Jenin refugee camp that was carrying out “fighting terrorism” when “tivis of armed Palestinian armed men” fired and threw explosives at their forces, to which the soldiers responded with live fire. “Hit was identified.”

“The IDF is investigating the incident and is investigating the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian armed men,” the statement said, referring to the Israeli defense forces.

IDF spokesman Brig. General Ran Kochav told Israeli Army Radio that “all data indicates with a high degree of probability” that Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian fire. “But I say it gently,” he added.

A senior Israeli official said in a statement sent to reporters that the army’s assessment was based on evidence that included video footage of an armed man being heard saying in Arabic: “We hit a soldier, he is on the ground.” The Israeli military said no Israeli soldiers were wounded during the clashes in Jenin on Wednesday and that the Palestinians in the video may have referred to Abu Akleh.

It was not clear when the video which was published on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account on Wednesday, was recorded, or where the incident depicted in the video took place.

“We suggested that the Palestinians launch a joint investigation. They took the body. They are not willing – they are hiding and they probably know why, “said Kochav.

In a message posted on Twitter, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid wrote: “We have offered the Palestinians a joint pathological investigation into the tragic death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to arrive at the truth.”

The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement that he “condemns the crime of the execution of Shireen Abu Akleh” and holds Israel “fully responsible”.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said in a message posted on Twitter: “Very sad to hear about the death of American and Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.”

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Jerusalem said: “The United States calls for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death.”

“We understand that the Israeli defense forces have already stated that they will investigate this incident. As we have said several times, the United States supports freedom of the press and the protection of journalists in the performance of their duties,” she said.

Samudi told the Palestinian newspaper Ma’an that he and the journalists were wearing their helmets and press vests at the time of the shooting. He said it took place near the camp’s UN schools, far from the presence of any armed men.

Samudi said that when Israeli soldiers surrounded one of the houses in the Jenin camp to carry out an arrest, the soldiers fired randomly, leading to a series of serious injuries and an outbreak of clashes with residents.

Atah Abu-Rumeleh, a doctor in Jenin who said he witnessed the shooting, said there had been no exchange of fire before the journalists were shot. “It was a clear day and the sun was shining,” he said in a telephone interview. “A sniper from somewhere shot Shireen in the head. And Ali Samudi was also hit.”

Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission to the United Kingdom, called Abu Akleh “the most prominent Palestinian journalist and a close friend.”

“Now we want to hear the ‘concerns’ of the British Government and the international community,” he wrote on Twitter.

Rubin reported from Tel Aviv

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