JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel is still investigating accusations about the death of a journalist killed during an operation to arrest terrorists in the West Bank town of Jenin, biblical Samaria, but issued a statement indicating one of its soldiers might have fired the bullet that killed a Palestinian journalist on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Shireen Abu Akleh was laid to rest in the Greek Catholic Cemetery on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. Church bells rang out as thousands of mourners gathered in Jesualem's Old City and joined the funeral procession of the woman now hailed as a Palestinian hero and martyr.
The hours-long live feed broadcast scathing commentary against Israel and showed Israeli police beating pallbearers.
Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the Palestinian Authority has rejected the idea of a joint investigation and refuses access to the basic findings of the autopsy.
“I, therefore, reiterate my expectation of an open, transparent and full cooperation of the findings, and I also expect the Palestinian Authority not to take any steps to disrupt the investigation or to contaminate the investigation process, in a way that we will not be able to reach the truth,” Bennett said Thursday.
At a memorial service in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave his reasons for not cooperating with any investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh’s death.
“We point out that we have refused and rejected the joint investigation with the Israeli authorities because they are the ones who committed the crime and because we do not trust them, and we will immediately go to the International Criminal Court to prosecute the criminals,” said Abbas.
The Israel Defense Forces said on Friday that there were two possibilities of what had occured:
"First, hundreds of bullets were fired by Palestinian gunmen from a number of locations… making this a possible source of the gunfire that hit and killed her.
The second possibility is that during the exchange of fire between the Palestinian gunmen and IDF soldiers … Ms. Abu Akleh, who was near the Palestinian gunman from behind, was hit by the soldier's fire toward the Palestinian gunmen," the IDF said in a statement.
Shireen was a well-known and well-respected Palestinian reporter for the Arabic language Al-Jazeera channel. Born in Jerusalem to a Christian family, she was also a US citizen.
Within hours of her death, allegations started rolling in.
"Based on the footage that has been taken by our cameraman, the colleague of Shireen, and also based on the eyewitnesses and the journalists that were with Shireen, it's clear for us that it's a brutal murder, it's assassination,” said Tamer Almisshal, a presenter for Al-Jazeera.
Shireen and other journalists were covering an Israeli raid at the Jenin Palestinian refugee camp when she was shot in the head and died.
Israel expressed its condolences while stopping short of accepting blame.
“Shireen Abu Akleh's death is a tragedy. There's no other word for it. She was an experienced journalist, whom many of my own colleagues used to work with. We have to get to the bottom of what happened — to find the truth and only the truth,” said Keren Hajioff, the prime minister’s international spokeswoman.
Bennett’s spokesperson noted that the Palestinian Forensic Medicine Institute had publicly stated the preliminary results of its autopsy were inconclusive.
“Without any concrete evidence, hasty accusations against Israel that are being made right now are misleading and irresponsible,” said Hajioff.
The incident comes against the backdrop of a surge in terror attacks over the last two months where 19 Israelis have been murdered. Many of the terrorists have come from the area of Jenin, prompting numerous raids to arrest them.
During another arrest operation in Jenin on Friday, an Israeli soldier was killed, the IDF said.
“Now, in Jenin, historically. There is a big, big influence of Islamic Jihad and they are getting money from Iran,” said Pinhas Inbari, a Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Inbari says the terror group – Islamic Jihad – has stepped in to help Hamas mobilize terrorism in the West Bank.
“So, this is the agenda of Hamas. If they will not use terror, they are like Fatah. So, they put plenty of resources to start a terrorist effort in the West Bank,” Inbari told CBN News.
Immediately following the fatal raid, the Palestinian Authority vowed to go to the Hague and call for an investigation. Inbari believes the Palestinian Authority and Abbas are using Shireen’s death as a way back into the international limelight.
“The PA must be relevant. The PA is not relevant anymore. Israel [made] peace with the Arab countries,” Inbari said, referencing the historic Abraham Accords. “They don't need the Palestinians anymore.”
Israel is concerned that the Palestinians could use the incident to incite more terrorism and inflame the situation.
Bennett says, Israel will continue to operate to cut off the current wave of terrorism.