The United States said on Monday that Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akle was likely killed in a shelling attack from Israeli positions, but there is no reason to believe her death was intentional.
The State Department also said the United States could not make a “final conclusion” about the origin of the bullet that killed her on May 11, which was handed over to the Palestinian Authority.
“Ballistics experts determined that the bullet was badly damaged, which did not allow for a definitive conclusion,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said after what he called an “extremely detailed forensic analysis” with outside experts.
Abu Akle’s death caused a furor as the Palestinian Authority claimed a war crime, prompting angry denials from Israel, a close US ally who will be visited by President Joe Biden in two weeks.
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.
“After summarizing the results of both investigations, the USSC concluded that the cause of death of Shirin Abu Akle was probably shooting from IDF positions,” the 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 on the next steps and hold them accountable. Once again, we offer our deepest condolences to the Abu Akla family,” the rare July 4 statement said.
A prominent Al Jazeera journalist who had US citizenship was killed while covering an Israeli army operation in the Jenin camp in the north of the occupied West Bank.
A Palestinian investigation said she was shot by an Israeli soldier.
Inflaming tensions further, Israeli police with batons descended on mourners during her funeral and seized Palestinian flags, while pallbearers struggled not to drop her coffin.
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 establish whether he personally shot her or could see that she and her colleagues were wearing vests that identified them as journalists.
Israeli leaders insisted that it would not target the journalist. Israel initially stated that it may have been killed by the Palestinians, but later refused and promised to investigate.
Dozens of US lawmakers have urged the United States to take the lead in conducting its own investigation, saying an unbiased opinion is needed.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke to Abu Akle’s family and criticized the Israeli police’s use of force at her funeral, while insisting since May that not all the facts were known about how she was killed.