Israel apologises for death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot in the West Bank


Israel has apologised for the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot and killed in the West Bank.

Ms Abu Akleh was shot in the back of the head while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in the West Bank last May.

She had covered the West Bank for the satellite channel for two decades and was well known across the Arab world.

After changing its version of what happened several times, Israel's military said Ms Abu Akleh, who was wearing a clearly marked protective press vest and helmet, was likely unintentionally shot by an Israeli soldier but could have also been hit by Palestinian fire.

Witnesses have said there were no Palestinian fighters firing in the area where Ms Abu Akleh was standing, and her family and Palestinian officials believe Israeli forces killed her deliberately.

In an interview, the Israeli Defence Force’s (IDF)chief spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, issued an apology for the journalist’s death a year after the incident took place.

“I think it’s an opportunity for me to say here that we are very sorry of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” he told CNN’s Eleni Giokos.

“She was a journalist, a very established journalist. In Israel we value our democracy and in a democracy we see high value in journalism and in a free press.

“We want journalists to feel safe in Israel, especially in war time, even if they criticise us.”

The apology comes following a report from The Committee to Protect Journalists which claimed the Israeli military has killed 20 journalists since 2001 and amid heightened tensions in Gaza. It found that no one has been charged or held accountable for the deaths.

"Shireen's killers are free, they haven't been held accountable. Nothing was done to deter them from targeting journalists and killing them in the same way," said journalist Najwan Simri, who was a close friend to Ms Abu Akleh.

Israel insists that its soldiers do not deliberately target journalists and has refused to identify the soldier who probably shot Ms Abu Akleh.

Naftali Bennett, who was Israel's prime minister when Ms Abu Akleh was killed, said last week that soldiers should not be prosecuted when civilians are not killed deliberately.

"If there's a battle going on and there's collateral damage that is not deliberate, then no. Otherwise, what you would do is shackle all the hands of fighters," he said.

On Thursday, the Israeli military launched a missile strike killing a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, in the southern Gaza Strip.

The rockets targeted the a building complex in Khan Younis killing Ali Ghali, and also killed two other senior militants. A seperate attack on the city of Rafah, killing three senior commanders of Islamic Jihad.