Al Jazeera journalist’s family condemns US investigation

The United States has concluded that was likely killed by Israeli firearms and called for accountability, but said there was no reason to believe she was shot on purpose.

Dashing hopes for an outcome that would be accepted by all parties, the United States said it could not draw a “final conclusion” about the origin of the bullet that killed the journalist on May 11.

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“Ballistics experts determined that the bullet was severely damaged, preventing a definitive conclusion,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement after what he called an “extremely detailed forensic analysis” of the bullet, reluctantly handed over by the Palestinian Authority.
Ms. Abu Akla, a US citizen and one of the most prominent Palestinian journalists, was mortally wounded while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin in the West Bank, despite wearing a “Press” vest.

Her death sparked anger as the Palestinian Authority said she was shot on purpose, amounting to a war crime. Israel, a close US ally that President Joe Biden will be visiting in two weeks, angrily denied the allegations.

The US Security Coordinator (USSC), who sends security assistance to the Palestinian Authority in coordination with Israel, said both sides have given full access to their own investigations over the past few weeks.
“In summing up both investigations, the USSC concluded that IDF gunfire was likely the cause of Shirin Abu Akla’s death,” the US State Department said, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.
The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional, but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups.

“We will continue to engage with Israel and the PA in the next steps and call for accountability. We once again express our deepest condolences to the Abu Agla family,” the rare July 4 statement said.

Incredible family

Ms. Abu Akla’s family said in a statement that it was “unbelievable” that forensics could not determine whose pistol the bullet that killed her was fired from.
“We will continue to stand up for justice for Shirin and hold the Israeli military and government accountable despite efforts to cover up the reality of what happened on May 11th,” the statement said.

Senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein Al-Sheikh condemned the attempts to “cover up the truth”, while the Hamas group called for an international investigation and said the United States was the “real accomplice” in her death.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid deplored Ms. Abu Akla’s “tragic” death and said the Israeli investigation “conclusively established that there was no intention to harm her”.

Israel “will continue to fight terrorism when and where necessary,” while recognizing the “importance of freedom of the press,” Lapid said in a statement.

Israelis say they are still investigating

Palestinian Authority Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib told AFP on Saturday that the bullet was handed over to US forensic experts, not Israel, on the condition that there would be no modifications and that it would be returned.

The Israeli army said in a statement that Israeli experts examined the bullet in a lab, and the State Department said that “independent third-party experts” were involved in the process.

Previously, Israel accused the Palestinians of not handing over the bullet, while the Palestinians, in turn, feared that Israel would whitewash any investigation it conducts.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday that it was still impossible to determine the source of the shooting, “and therefore the investigation will continue.”

Woman standing outside

The United States said Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akle was likely shot dead by Israel, but not intentionally. Credit: Al Jazeera

Further heightening tensions following the death of Ms. Abu Akla, Israeli police with batons descended on mourners during her funeral and seized Palestinian flags, while pallbearers struggled not to drop her coffin, prompting U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to denounce Israel’s use of force .

Several media outlets also pointed to Israel for the assassination, with a CNN report saying she was apparently targeted by Israeli forces.
A New York Times investigation found that the bullet was fired near an Israeli military convoy, likely by a soldier in an elite unit, and that there were no armed Palestinians in the area.

But the newspaper also did not specify whether he personally shot her.