Photo Credit: Yehonatan Valtser/TPS

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has officially refused Israel’s offer to conduct a joint investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and has again blamed Israel for the incident.

Abu Akleh was killed during an encounter between IDF forces and terrorists in the Jenin Refugee Camp on Wednesday morning, and the IDF has launched an investigation into the incident.

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Hussein al-Sheik, the PA minister entrusted with the ties with Israel, stated Thursday that “Israel has requested a joint investigation and to be handed over the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen, we refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently.”

The PA will inform Abu Akleh’s family, the US, Qatar, and “all official authorities and the public of the results of the investigation with high transparency,” he said.

“All of the indicators, the evidence and the witnesses confirm her assassination by Israeli special units,” he alleged, offering no proof.

Dr. Rayan al-Ali of the Pathological Institute at a-Najah University in Shechem (Nablus) said at a press conference on Wednesday that there was no evidence that Abu Akleh’s shooting was carried out at close range, and it is not possible to determine with certainty whether the IDF or terrorists shot her.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced Wednesday that Israel will communicate its findings on Abu Akleh’s death “in a clear and transparent manner to our American friends, as well as to the Palestinian Authority” and other countries.

Preliminary findings from the investigation conducted by the IDF indicate that no Israeli gunfire was directed at the journalist, “however the investigation is ongoing,” said Gantz.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi appointed a dedicated team led by Brigadier General Menny Liberty, commander of the Commando Battalion, to investigate the incident.

“We are currently in the midst of an ongoing investigation of the incident – it is important that we uncover the truth about how it unfolded,” said Gantz.

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan stated “protecting freedom of the press is of critical importance to Israel”.

Abu Akleh was “killed in Jenin, where many of the Palestinian terrorists who recently murdered 19 Israelis came from. She was killed during a counter-terror operation and we express sorrow for her loss,” he noted.

The PA “rushed to blame Israel without even the ability to know the facts. That is why we called on the Palestinian Authority to be transparent and agree to a joint investigation. They have refused. Her death is a tragedy but no one should use it for political gains, especially those who violate human rights on a daily basis,” he stated.

The autopsy suggested by Israel could determine the caliber of the bullet from which Abu Akleh was killed. The terrorists usually Kalashnikov rifles with a larger 7.62-mm caliber, as opposed to the 5.56 mm caliber rounds shot by the IDF’s M-16 rifles.

A government official said that Israel has called for a joint pathological investigation, “but the Palestinians are refusing, perhaps in order to hide the truth.”

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.