A journalist has been shot and killed and another injured while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry has said.
It is said that Palestinian reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was working for Al Jazeera’s Arabic language channel, was shot in the town of Jenin early on Wednesday and died soon afterward.
Another Palestinian journalist from the Jerusalem-based Al-Quds newspaper was wounded but is in a stable condition.
While the health ministry said the reporters were hit by Israeli fire, the Israeli military said it is “investigating” the event and is looking into the possibility the journalists were hit by “the Palestinian gunmen”.
In a statement flashed on its channel, Al Jazeera blamed Israel and called on the international community to “condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague, Shireen Abu Akleh”.
Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, said it had proposed to the Palestinian Authority a joint pathological investigation into the reporter’s death.
“Journalists must be protected in conflict zones and we all have a responsibility to get to the truth,” he tweeted.
In video footage of the incident, Ms Abu Akleh can be seen wearing a blue flak jacket clearly marked with the word ‘PRESS’.
The journalist who was injured alongside Ms Abu Akleh, Ali Al-Samudi, told reporters he was hit by the first bullet.
He said: “All of a sudden they opened fire at us, they didn’t ask us to leave or stop. The first bullet hit me, the second one hit Shireen.
“There were no resistance fighters around us. If there were, we wouldn’t have been in that area”, he added.
In a video online journalist, Shatha Hanaysha, who was present when Ms Abu Akleh was shot said the journalist was wearing press gear and a helmet.
She told Quds News Network that it was “obvious” whoever shot her “meant to hit an exposed part of her body”.
She said: “Even after she fell to the ground the fire did not stop and none of us were able to reach her. A guy was finally able to reach us, he helped me and started pulling her. This assured us that we as journalists were targeted.”
Citing the Palestinian healthy ministry and its own journalists, Al Jazeera claims Ms Abu Akleh was hit by a live bullet and rushed to hospital in critical condition, where she later died.
Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim told the broadcaster 51-year-old Ms Abu Akleh was a “very well-respected journalist” who had been working with the channel since 2000.
The Israeli military said its forces came under attack with heavy gunfire and explosives while operating in Jenin, and that they fired back.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in recent weeks amid a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, many of them carried out by Palestinians from in and around Jenin.
The town, and particularly its refugee camp, has long been known as a militant bastion.
Israel captured the West Bank in 1967, and the Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of their future state.
Nearly three million Palestinians live in the territory under Israeli military rule.
Israel has built more than 130 settlements across the West Bank that are home to nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers, who have full Israeli citizenship.
Israelis have long been critical of Al Jazeera’s coverage, but authorities generally allow its journalists to operate freely.