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Palestinians mourn slain journalist

RAMALLAH, WEST BANK (AP) – Thousands gathered to mourn a slain journalist in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday, as the head of the Palestinian Authority blamed Israel for her death and rejected Israeli calls for a joint investigation.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American reporter who covered the Mideast conflict for over 25 years, was shot dead during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Journalists who were with her, including one who was shot and wounded, said Israeli forces fired upon them even though they were clearly identifiable as reporters.

Israel said it is investigating the incident. It initially suggested she might have been shot by Palestinian militants, without providing evidence, but has since backtracked. Israel is calling for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank and cooperates with it on security.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas angrily rejected that proposal, saying “we hold the Israeli occupation authorities fully responsible for killing her”.

Protesters hold photos of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. PHOTO: AP

“They cannot hide the truth with this crime,” Abbas said in an address as her body lay in state with a Palestinian flag draped over it in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

“They are the ones who committed the crime, and because we do not trust them, we will immediately go to the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Abbas said.

Senior aide to Abbas Hussein al-Sheikh said the Palestinians would conduct their own independent probe and convey the results “with high transparency”. He rejected an Israeli request to conduct its own ballistic analysis on the bullet.

Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin, which emerged as a militant bastion in recent weeks as Palestinians have carried out a series of deadly attacks and Israel has launched military raids across the occupied West Bank.

The news agency accused Israel of deliberately killing her and vowed to take legal action.

Reporters who were with her said there were no Palestinian militants in the area.

Israeli officials initially suggested Abu Akleh was struck by militant fire and released a video showing gunmen firing at Israeli forces in a narrow alley inside the Jenin refugee camp. They later backtracked after an Israeli human rights group released its own video showing the site of the shooting was several hundred metres away from where Abu Akleh was killed.

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