Defense Benny Gantz held a briefing held for members of the foreign press Wednesday evening following the shooting death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh.
“Unfortunately, Shireen was hurt. We are not certain how she was killed but we want to get to the bottom of this incident. And to uncover the truth as much as we can. We do not currently have a way to conduct a full forensic investigation, so we asked the Palestinians to provide us with the bullet head they have found … that killed Shireen according to their assessment. And I hope that we will get their cooperation, and we want to conduct, not just a military debriefing but a full-scale investigation on our side to include a forensic analysis and process, which is very important," Gantz said.
"We are now in a full investigation process, and I hope to come to a conclusion, because currently our initial findings from the investigation cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen and I cannot exclude any option under the operational chaos that was on the ground. We have offered the Palestinian Authority to conduct a joint debriefing and to share our findings. As I said, we are committed to uncovering the truth and we will communicate all of our findings in a clear and transparent manner to both our American friends and to the PA.
"We are in touch with the PA, with our American partners and other officials in the area. And I must emphasize that the State of Israel and the defense establishment, including the IDF, value human life above all, and we place great importance on the freedom of the press, on your work and as much as possible to ensure the security of the journalists who are operating on the ground.
"First and foremost that I am very sorry for what happened. Secondly, currently we do not know what was the direct cause for Shireen’s death, and thirdly that I am, we are, very decisive to have a full-scale investigation of this process and we hope to get Palestinian cooperation on this issue, because without the report of the pathological surgery that she went through and the findings and the forensic findings, it will be very hard for us to figure out what exactly happened on the ground and it’s very important for us all.
"As far as the situation around ... it is one year since ‘Operation Guardian of the Walls’. We are operating under a new policy since the operation as far as the Gaza area. In Gaza we are very conservative in terms of security aspects and policy and we try to have a broader humanitarian and basic economic policy – to include the workers that come to Israel, as much as we can and I hope that we can renew this, this coming Sunday.
"In Judea and Samaria, we want to keep a strong Palestinian Authority and a weak Hamas as much as we can. We maintain communication with the PA on all levels and we are moving forward with confidence-building measures as much as we can in tangible economic value for the citizens.
"And I believe that even though a political resolution may not be realistic right now, we are creating- trying to create, a better reference for future resolution as much as possible, while maintaining security on the ground.
"Unfortunately, despite our investment in the Palestinian economy and the civilian measures that we have taken, we have been facing a terror wave over the past month that actually resulted in the murder of 19 innocent lives. Those attacks were fueled by incitement with the support of terror groups, as we saw and we see the spread of incitement in all areas and specifically as far as the Temple Mount during the Ramadan itself.
"We succeeded in preventing dozens of attacks by intelligence and offensive and preemptive approach. I’ve instructed the defense establishment and military forces to conduct the counterterrorism activities with as much precision as possible in order to ensure civilian life and to try our best to separate between the terrorists and the civilians around them as much as possible.
"I must say that the area of Jenin is a hotbed of terrorism of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and many of the attackers to include Tel Aviv, Bnei Brak, Elad and other events that we’ve succeeded to prevent came from this area and we must do whatever we can to ensure security and stability as much as possible.
"Even though it’s a very hard day to talk about it because of the event, we are very decisive in continuing to fight terrorism as far as we can in an accurate manner, to separate between the terrorists and civilians as much as we can, to keep stability in the area of Gaza, and we will continue to take all the measures necessary to secure our citizens and prevent further attacks but we will do it in a manner that reflects our values and our interests and I think that both the IDF and the State of Israel hold themselves to the highest moral standards - so it’s definitely important for us to continue this. So let’s hope for more quiet days and we will be ready for days that are not like that,” Gantz concluded.