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Israeli Fire ‘Likely’ Responsible for Shireen Abu Akleh’s Death, but No Clear Conclusion, U.S. Says

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The analysis of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding [its] origin,” the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

“Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that immediately drew frustration and anger from Palestinian officials, accusing Washington of siding with Israel and concealing the truth.

Price added that a review of the investigations carried out by the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian Authority led American examiners to the conclusion that “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.”

The U.S. Security Coordinator, which oversaw the examination by Israeli experts, “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad … which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.”

“The United States appreciates and continues to encourage cooperation between Israel and the PA in this important case,” Price added.

Abu Akleh was killed on May 11, during a military raid to arrest Palestinian suspects in the Jenin refugee camp. The PA accuses Israeli soldiers of shooting Abu Akleh, but a prior Israeli military probe failed to reach a clear conclusion.

In a statement following the announcement of the U.S. findings, Abu Akleh’s family said the investigation “was an attempt by the Israeli side to spin the narrative in its favor.”

“We continue to call on the American government to conduct an open, transparent, and thorough investigation of all the facts by independent agencies free from any political consideration or influence,” the statement concluded.

Gantz accuses ‘terrorists,’ PA wants ICC probe

Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed Israel’s defense establishment always strives to get to the truth, which “unfortunately isn’t possible” in the case at hand.

“Hundreds of bullets were fired at IDF soldiers, who fired back only at the sources of the shooting,” he added in a statement. “The responsibility for this incident lies first and foremost with the terrorists who operate from within the civilian population.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused the U.S. of protecting Israel, saying “The truth is clear but the U.S. administration continues to stall in announcing it. We say Israel killed Shireen Abu Akleh and it must be held responsible for the crime it has committed.”

Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee, echoed the statement, adding that the organization would move to take the case to the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said “Israel bears full responsibility,” adding that the case “will be monitored by the International Criminal Court on the clear assumption that Israel is responsible for the assassination and must bear responsibility.”

In response to the U.S.’s findings, an Israeli military spokesperson said “the IDF will continue to act to thwart terrorism wherever necessary and to fulfill its missions, while striving to avoid harming civilians.”

Ali al-Samoudi, Abu Akleh’s colleague who was wounded in the same incident, told Ashams radio station said the American statement “is yet another proof that the United States can’t be trusted with anything that has to do with the Palestinians. It was a mistake to hand over the bullet, and now we’re at a point where we can’t say for sure who fired.”

“I was there personally and witnessed the whole thing,” he added. “There was no one there apart from the Israeli force, and they were the ones who shot at us.”

In its statement, Abu Akleh’s family added that it was “incredulous” at the inconclusive findings, which ignore “the history and context of the brutal and violent nature of what is now the longest military occupation in modern history.”

“The truth is that the Israeli military killed Shireen according to policies that view all Palestinians – civilian, press or otherwise – as legitimate targets,” it said.

The Israeli military’s investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing showed that soldiers from the elite Duvdevan unit were engaged in an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants in the area of the refugee camp where Abu Akleh was shot. But the IDF said it was impossible to determine who fired that bullet, and criticized the Palestinians for initially refusing to hand over the bullet for inspection in Israel.

The death of Abu Akleh, who held U.S. citizenship, drew special attention in the United States, and in recent weeks Washington has pressured both Israel and the PA to launch a joint investigation. Senior Palestinian officials had rejected all calls for a joint probe until this weekend, when they changed their minds. To avoid the semblance of collaboration with Israel it was agreed that the United States would lead the examination.

U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia the weekend after next, with the visits to both coming against the backdrop of high-profile cases of journalists’ killings. Biden is ending a prolonged boycott of the Saudi regime following the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey almost four years ago.

At least five major international media outlets have published detailed investigations of the case of Abu Akleh’s killing, all showing that Israel was likely responsible for the deadly shooting. Some Palestinian witnesses denied the presence of Palestinian gunmen in the area during the incident.

The conduct of Israeli police at Abu Akleh’s funeral also attracted international criticism after videos posted online showed Israeli forces using stun grenades on an East Jerusalem crowd and striking with clubs mourners who were carrying the late journalist’s casket. An Israel Police probe of the incident concluded that it amounted to police misconduct, but no commanders overseeing the event were disciplined.

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Article source: Haaretz | Ben Samuels Yaniv Kubovich Jack Khoury | Jul 4, 2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000