An investigative report from the Israeli military determined there is a “high possibility” that a longtime Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera was “accidentally hit” by Israeli gunfire, but officials will not launch a criminal investigation.
The report – with similar findings by the United Nations, media analysis and human rights organisations – comes four months after the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, who was likely shot dead by Israeli forces while covering Israeli army raids in Jenin on 11 May.
The results of the probe from the Israel Defense Force claimed that Israeli soldiers had come under fire from Palestinian fighters “identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired,” which has not been corroborated in other reports.
“It is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms Abu Akleh,” according to the report, which also claims that there is a “possibility” that she “was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen”.
But reporters briefed on the findings were told that there was a “ very high likelihood” an Israeli soldier had made a “mistake” and fatally shot the 51-year-old journalist – who was wearing a bulletproof vest reading “press” – and “he is sorry for it.”
The report then claims that “there is no suspicion of a criminal offence that justifies the opening of a military police investigation.”
The unnamed soldier “was in a closed military vehicle under heavy fire” and “could only see a small area and he didn’t know he was shooting at a journalist,” according to senior IDF official who briefed reporters. “The soldier’s reports on the radio during the incident clearly point at a misidentification.”
US president Joe Biden’s administration called for an “immediate and thorough investigation and full accountability” for her killing earlier this year, and a ballistics report from US military officials also determined she was likely killed by Israeli gunfire, through a test of a bullet fragment removed from her body was “inconclusive”.
Secretary of state Antony Blinken also has reportedly asked Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz to review the IDF’s “rules of engagement” following international demands for accountability in the wake of Abu Akleh’s killing.
Al Jazeera and the family of Abu Akleh have asked the International Criminal Court to investigate her death. The network has characterised her killing as “blatant murder” and holds the Israeli government and security forces responsible.
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