Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lambasted the Palestinian Authority on Thursday for “preventing any possibility of a joint investigation” into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
The veteran Palestinian-American reporter was killed during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian gunmen during an Israel Defense Forces raid in Jenin on Wednesday. The IDF entered the Palestinian city to thwart additional acts of terror following three deadly attacks against Israeli civilians that were carried out from Jenin over the past few weeks.
The U.S. administration has called for a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz have reached out to the PA and offered to conduct a joint investigation, but the PA rejected the proposal.
Palestinian Minister for Civilian Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh said on Wednesday that the PA will conduct its own investigation and update Qatar and United States.
"Israel has requested a joint investigation and to be handed over [sic] the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen, we refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently," al-Sheikh tweeted on Thursday morning.
Bennett said that the Palestinians are blocking “access to the basic findings that would be necessary in order to reach the truth.” He called for an open, transparent inquiry and urged full cooperation regarding the findings.
“I also expect the Palestinian Authority to take no step that could obstruct the investigation or taint the investigative process that would render us unable to investigate the truth,” the Israeli premier added.
A memorial service for Akleh took place on Thursday in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said during the procession that he will go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to "punish the criminals.”
He called Abu Akleh a “martyr of Jerusalem and the truth” and a “symbol of a Palestinian fighter woman and journalist.” Abbas said that “Shireen has paid with her life for her people and the causes that are important to them.”
Unlike the White House, which refrained from placing blame on either side for Abu Akleh's death, Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib did not wait for the findings of an investigation.
“Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes, Tlaib wrote on Twitter.
She said the journalist was “murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog replied to Tlaib, saying “One would expect a member of Congress to support our call for an impartial joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation of this tragic event, rather than rushing to a biased conclusion. Acting as the judge, jury and executioner undermines the causes of justice and peace.”
While calls for scrutiny and criticism of Israel came from the West, the response in much of the Muslim world has been relatively muted, according to the Times of Israel.
A member of Turkey’s National Security Council commented on the Al Jazeera journalist's death without mentioning Israel by name.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing and offer my condolences to her family and colleagues,” tweeted Fahrettin Altun, who serves as a government communications director.
Israel’s Abraham Accords partners, Bahrain and the UAE, have also refrained from casting direct blame.
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “strongly condemns the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, which took place near the Jenin refugee camp in the Palestinian territories while she was on duty, as it is a violation of the rules and principles of the international humanitarian law.”
The UAE declined to comment, nor did Saudi Arabia issue a statement.
Despite the tragic death of Abu Akleh, Bennett stated on Thursday that Israel’s actions against Palestinian terrorism will continue.
“I remind everyone that we are in the midst of a wave of terrorism that has claimed 19 Israeli lives. The terrorists who set out intent on killing civilians did not carry out investigations; they had the pre-meditated intent to kill Israelis. We must cut off this wave; therefore, all security forces of the State of Israel – the IDF, ISA, Israel Police and Border Police – are presently continuing round-the-clock operations to cut off this wave,” Bennett said.
The prime minister made the remarks at the beginning of a discussion over the establishment of a civilian national guard, which is expected to provide security on Israeli streets in both routine and emergency situations.
Bennett said this is one of the lessons learned from the IDF Operation Guardians of the Walls that took place exactly one year ago. During the 11-day of conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, multiple violent riots emerged in mixed Israeli-Arab towns such as Jaffa, Akko, Lod and other locations across the country.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.