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Shireen Abu Akleh killing: Israel investigating three separate shooting incidents

Veteran Al Jazeera reporter was wearing a press vest when she was gunned down near the Jenin refugee camp
Shireen Abu Akleh reporting for Al Jazeera news channel (Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

The Israeli military is investigating the possibility that one of its soldiers may have fatally shot Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, an Israeli army official has said.

The unnamed official told the Washington Post on Thursday that the Israeli military was investigating three separate shooting incidents involving its soldiers following Abu Akleh's death as well as the wounding of her producer.

Early on Wednesday morning, the Palestinian-American journalist went to the Jenin refugee camp to report on a raid by Israeli soldiers and security forces, which the Israeli military said was conducted to apprehend "terrorist suspects".

According to Israeli authorities, the Israeli army's elite Duvdevan Unit fired live ammunition southwards, but some bullets were also fired at a northern area of the camp where Abu Akleh and five other journalists were positioned.

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At the time of the shooting, Akleh was wearing a vest that clearly identified her as a member of the press. 

The Israeli army official said the military was looking into an exchange of gunfire between Israeli soldiers in a vehicle and one or more armed Palestinian men who he said were shooting at the vehicle. 

The official said the shooting occurred on a street roughly 150 meters from the spot where Abu Akleh was killed. Of the three incidents being investigated, it was "the more probable to be involved in the death of Shireen", the official told the Post.

"A soldier with a rifle and a very good aiming system was shooting toward a terrorist with an M16, in very good condition, very clear picture, that was shooting on our troops. What we are checking now is the location of Shireen," the official said, adding that military investigators had taken the rifles from Israeli service members involved in the incident to have them available for ballistic testing.

Middle East Eye contributor Shatha Hanaysha was with Abu Akleh when they came under fire.

"What happened was a deliberate attempt to kill us. Whoever shot at us aimed to kill," she told MEE.

According to Hanaysha, there were no Palestinian fighters nearby and the location where Abu Akleh was killed was in a relatively open area.

Israel is fully responsible says Abbas

The Israeli military and Israel's US embassy tweeted a video shortly after Abu Akleh's killing where Palestinian gunmen could be seen firing down an alley in Jenin, suggesting they were responsible for the journalist's death.

Israeli NGO B'Tselem also visited the scene where that footage was taken and said it was impossible for Abu Akleh to have been hit by the Palestinian fighters.

Al Jazeera has condemned the "blatant murder" of Abu Akleh, calling it a "heinous crime, through which it is intended to prevent the media from fulfilling its message".

"We hold the Israeli government and the occupation forces responsible for the killing of the late colleague Shireen," Al Jazeera said in a statement, urging the international community to hold Israel accountable for their "intentional targeting and killing" of Abu Akleh.

The journalist's killing has sparked global outrage and has also been met with calls for independent investigations.

Speaking at a state service for the slain journalist on Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also said Israel was "fully responsible" for her death.

"We reject the joint investigation with Israel into the killing of Abu Akleh," Abbas said, adding that the Palestinian officials would go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to seek justice.

The Biden administration has condemned the incident, and rights groups, including Democracy for the Arab World Now, have called for the US to conduct its own investigation, citing Abu Akleh's American citizenship.