Journalists take part in a candlelight vigil to condemn the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
May 11 (UPI) -- A Palestinian American journalist covering an Israeli raid on a Palestinian refugee camp was killed by gunfire Wednesday, local officials announced.
Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, a reporter for Al Jazeera, was declared dead at a hospital after being shot in the head in Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank. Her colleague, Ali al-Samoudi, was also shot and injured in the back, the network reported.
Al Jazeera reported that Abu Akleh had been "clearly wearing a press jacket that identifies her as a journalist."
Al-Samoudi and other journalists on the scene said Israeli forces were behind the gunfire and that no Palestinian fighters were present. Israeli officials, meanwhile, said Abu Akleh was killed in the crossfire between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters, The Washington Post reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Palestinians of shooting "in an inaccurate, indiscriminate and uncontrolled manner."
"Our forces from the [Israel Defense Forces] returned fire as accurately, carefully and responsibly as possible. Sadly, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in the exchange," he added. "To uncover the truth, there must be a real investigation, and the Palestinians are currently preventing that. Without a serious investigation, we will not reach the truth."
Al-Samoudi disputed the Israeli accounting of events.
"We were going to film the Israeli army operation and suddenly they shot us without asking us to leave or stop filming," he said, according to Al Jazeera.
"The first bullet hit me and the second bullet hit Shireen ... there was no Palestinian military resistance at all at the scene."
Another journalist there, Shatha Hanaysha, said all four journalists were wearing press helmets and vests.
"The [Israeli] occupation army did not stop firing even after she collapsed. I couldn't even extend my arm to pull her because of the shots being fired. The army was adamant on shooting to kill."
The head of medicine at al-Najah University in Nablus said Abu Akleh's body was transported for an autopsy. Al Jazeera reported there will be a funeral Thursday morning at the Palestinian presidency headquarters in Ramallah.
Foreign officials condemned the killing Wednesday, including White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a gaggle with reporters.
"We call for a thorough investigation into her death," she said.
The Palestinian Ministry of Information said it was shocked by the killing in a statement to Palestinian news agency WAFA.
"In several previous occasions, the Israeli occupation has repeatedly targeted, injured and assaulted Palestinian journalists, including the renowned journalist Abu Akleh."