Al Jazeera requests war crimes court probe into Israel’s alleged killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Israel rejects any outside probe of its soldiers’ conduct

Borzou Daragahi
International Correspondent
Tuesday 06 December 2022 17:52 GMT

The state-owned Qatari news channel Al Jazeera has announced it is submitting the case of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, six months after she was allegedly killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank.

In a statement, Al Jazeera said that new evidence and video footage “clearly show” the veteran Palestinian-American journalist was gunned down on 11 May by Israeli armed forces during a military operation on the West Bank town of Jenin.

“The new witness evidence and video footage clearly show that Shireen and her colleagues were directly fired at by the Israeli [forces],” said an announcement posted to Al Jazeera’s corporate website. “The claim by the Israeli authorities that Shireen was killed by mistake in an exchange of fire is completely unfounded.”

Israel’s prime minister Yair Lapid rejected any attempt by the ICC to investigate the Israeli military, officially called the Israeli Defence Forces.

“No one will investigate IDF soldiers and no one will preach to us about morals in warfare, certainly not Al-Jazeera,” he said in a statement distributed by his spokesperson.

It remains unclear what actions if any the ICC could take.

Qatar is not a signatory to the Rome statute that recognises the authority of the ICC, which Israel signed in 2000. The Palestinian Authority, which governs the town where the killing took place, joined the ICC in 2015. The court – which prosecutes war crimes and crimes against humanity – ruled last year that it has authority over Palestinian lands under Israeli occupation.

Several weeks ago, Israeli authorities disclosed that America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation had launched an investigation into the killing but insisted they would not cooperate. “I have delivered a message to US representatives that we stand by the IDF’s soldiers, that we will not cooperate with an external investigation,” Israel’s defence minister Benny Gantz said.

Israel’s own investigation, released under US pressure, concluded that Abu Akleh was likely accidentally struck by Israeli gunfire during clashes with militants. No Israeli soldier has been charged with her death.

Shireen Abu Akleh (EPA)

Al Jazeera has disputed the Israeli conclusion, and claimed that it had found fresh evidence based on witness accounts, video footage and forensic examinations. It insisted that the shooting, which also injured three other journalists, was a “deliberate killing” and “part of a wider campaign to target and silence” the Qatar-based news channel. Al Jazeera includes some of that evidence in a 38-minute documentary that was aired by its English-language channel on 1 December

“There was no firing in the area where Shireen was, other than the [Israeli forces] shooting directly at her,” said the announcement. “The journalists were in full view of the [Israeli forces] as they walked as a group slowly down the road with their distinctive media vests, and there were no other persons in the road.”

At a press appearance in The Hague, Al Jazeera’s lawyer Rodney Dixon described Abu Akleh’s killing as a part of a “wider pattern” of Israeli violence that the prosecution should examine.

Israeli forces clash with mourners at Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral (AP)

“The focus is on Shireen, and this particular killing, this outrageous killing,” he said. “But the evidence we submit looks at all of the acts against Al Jazeera because it has been targeted as an international media organisation. And the evidence shows that what the [Israeli] authorities are trying to do is to shut it up.”

Israel initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for the killing but changed course after contradictory evidence quickly came to light. At least a dozen news organisations launched investigations into her death. Washington has also pressured Israel to come clean about the shooting of the naturalised American citizen.

Her funeral march drew the wrath of Israeli forces, who were filmed brutalising mourners attempting to carry her casket.

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