Al Jazeera journalist killed in West Bank

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(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist working for Al Jazeera, was killed Wednesday morning in the West Bank city of Jenin, according to the network and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Abu Akleh was on assignment covering an overnight Israeli military raid in the city. Exchanges of fire erupted between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Abu Akleh, who had been wearing a protective vest identifying her as a member of the press, was shot in the head and rushed in critical condition to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to the health ministry. She was 51.

The ministry confirmed another Palestinian Journalist, Ali Samodi, was wounded.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera said its reporter was killed by Israeli forces. An IDF spokesman said the military was “investigating the event and looking into the possibility that the journalists were hit by the Palestinian gunmen.”

“The Al Jazeera Media Network condemns this heinous crime, which intends to only prevent the media from conducting their duty,” the network said in a statement. “Al Jazeera holds the Israeli government and the occupation forces responsible for the killing of Shireen. It also calls on the international community to condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for their intentional targeting and killing of Shireen.”

Political leaders called for an investigation into the death, with Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East, saying that “media workers should never be targeted.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides said Abu Akleh was a dual American-Palestinian citizen.

“I encourage a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her death and the injury of at least one other journalist today in Jenin,” Nides said on Twitter.

Abu Akleh’s death comes amid a rise in tensions in the West Bank and Israel, where a spate of terrorist attacks this year have sparked renewed fears that the security situation is deteriorating.

An international coalition of journalists, including the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, filed a formal complaint in April at the International Criminal Court accusing Israel of “the systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it had “preliminary findings” that indicated “no gunfire was directed at the journalist — however the investigation is ongoing.”

“On the other hand, we have seen footage of indiscriminate shooting by Palestinian terrorists, which is likely to have hit the journalist,” the ministry said. “We will communicate our findings in a clear and transparent manner to our American friends, as well as to the Palestinian Authority.”

Lior Haiat, ministry spokesperson, added, “A free and fair press is fundamental to Israel and all democracies, and as such, journalists must be protected.”

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