Naftali Bennett
Naftali Bennett Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pushed back Wednesday on accusations by the Palestinian Authority that Israeli forces were responsible for the death of American-Arab journalist in Jenin.

In a statement issued following the death of Shireen Abu Aqleh, a correspondent for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network, during a firefight in Jenin between Arab terrorists and Israeli soldiers, Bennett lamented Abu Aqleh’s death, and suggested that it may have been caused by terrorist gunfire.

"Last night, IDF forces conducted an extensive operation in northern Samaria, as part of the efforts of the State of Israel to stop the deadly wave of terrorism. During the engagement, armed Palestinians shot in an inaccurate, indiscriminate and uncontrolled manner. Our forces from the IDF returned fire as accurately, carefully and responsibly as possible.”

“Sadly, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh was killed in the exchange. The Palestinian Authority rushed to blame Israel for her death, and the president of the PA made unfounded accusations against Israel before any investigation had been carried out.”

Bennett did not dismiss the possibility that Abu Aqleh may have been killed by a shot fired by Israeli forces, but emphasized that Israeli forces were operating in the area to prevent terror attacks, amid a terrorism wave.

“Based on preliminary information that we have, there is a significant possibility that the journalist was shot by the armed Palestinians. However, 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.”

“Israel has called on the PA to conduct a joint forensic analysis based on all the documentation and findings available in order to uncover the truth. As I said, the Palestinians are refusing, and I expect them to cooperate and refrain from any actions that may contaminate the investigation.”

“One must understand the broader context surrounding the event in Jenin: For two months, Israel's citizens have been subject to a series of deadly terrorist attacks. Palestinian terrorists carry out premeditated attacks to murder Israelis. Last night's action in Jenin is part of a series of counterterrorism efforts meant to put an end to the wave of terrorism and restore security to Israeli citizens.”

“We are determined to continue until we have achieved our goal, and we stand by our men and women of the IDF, the ISA and the police, who risk their lives daily to protect ours."

Earlier on Wednesday, Bennett pointed to video footage released by the terrorists involved in the firefight, showing them celebrating after they believed they had shot an IDF soldier. No IDF soldiers were wounded in the incident, raising suspicions that the person shot was in fact either Abu Aqleh, or a second Al Jazeera journalist who was wounded in the incident.

“According to the information we have gathered, it appears likely that armed Palestinians — who were firing indiscriminately at the time — were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist,” Bennett said.

“Palestinians in Jenin were even filmed boasting ‘We hit a soldier; he’s lying on the ground’. However, no IDF soldier was injured, which increases the possibility that Palestinian terrorists were the ones who shot the journalist.”

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