Hussein a-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority's minister in charge of civilian affairs and one of the PA's senior officials tasked with maintaining relations with Israel, announced on Thursday morning that the Palestinians have rejected the Israeli request to hold a joint investigation into the death of the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, who was shot in Jenin on Wednesday in unclear circumstances.
"Israel requested that we hold a joint investigation into the incident and into the bullet that murdered journalist Shireen," a-Sheikh wrote on Twitter. "We refused, and announced that our investigation will be conducted independently, and at its conclusion, we will inform the family of Abu Aqleh, the Americans, Qatar, and the whole world, of the results of the investigation which will be conducted with a high level of transparency. All the indications and witness accounts point to the fact that she was assassinated by an Israeli special forces unit," he added.
The IDF's initial investigation of the incident has revealed that the Palestinian journalist was standing between 100 and 150 meters away from the IDF forces who were operating in Jenin, when she was hit by gunfire. During the operation, fighters from the Duvdevan unit fired several dozen bullets, but it is unclear whether Abu Aqleh was hit by Israeli fire or by a bullet fired by armed Palestinian gunmen who had provoked the battle by firing first at the IDF unit.
Israel has a clear and pressing interest in verifying the details of the incident, and IDF Gen. Rasan Elian had already asked the Palestinians to release the bullet extracted from the journalist during autopsy, in order to conduct a forensics examination and determine its origin. The Palestinians, however, have refused to comply.
According to a senior security official, Israel, "acting transparently and with openness, has proposed to Palestinian Authority and American representatives that we send our own representatives to be present at the forensics examination of the bullet."
Speaking on Kan 11, Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, the head of the IDF's Central Command, said that he has not ruled out any potential source of the bullet. "Wild, unchecked gunfire was directed at IDF forces operating in the area," he said. "They were shot at from a number of directions, and at this stage, I am unable to determine what exactly hit Abu Aqleh."
IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochavi has also said that the inability of the Palestinians to determine the source of the gunfire testifies to the complexity of the incident. However, he added that if the bullet were to be transferred to Israeli forensics experts, its source could be identified.