US says Al Jazeera journalist ‘likely’ shot by Israel

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A makeshift memorial to the slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, the West Bank, on May 23, 2022. (File photo: NYTimes)

WASHINGTON, DC — The US concluded Monday that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely killed by Israeli gunfire and urged accountability, but said it could not make a “definitive conclusion”.اضافة اعلان

“Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement after what he called “extremely detailed forensic analysis” of the bullet reluctantly handed over by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Abu Akleh was shot in the head in Jenin on May 11 while covering a raid by Israeli occupation forces on the refugee camp in the West Bank, despite wearing a vest clearly marked “press”.

Palestinian officials, international rights groups, and media outlets carried out independent investigations that concluded that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces, Al Jazeera reported.

The UN human rights office last month said that information it had gathered showed that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli forces. Several witnesses said Israeli forces killed the Jerusalem-born Palestinian-American journalist.

Abu Akleh’s family said in a statement it was “incredulous” that the examination could not determine whose gun fired the bullet that killed her.

“We will continue to advocate for justice for Shireen, and to hold the Israeli military and government accountable, no matter the attempts to obfuscate the reality of what happened on May 11,” it said. 

Senior PA official Hussein Al Sheikh condemned efforts to “conceal the truth” over Abu Akleh’s death, writing on Twitter that there should not be “shy references in pointing the finger of accusation to Israel”.

The US Security Coordinator (USSC), which directs security assistance to the PA in coordination with Israel, said that both sides granted full access to their own probes over the past several weeks.

“By summarizing both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from (Israeli) positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” the State Department said.

The PA’s attorney general, Akram Al-Khatib, told AFP on Saturday that the bullet was handed over to US forensic experts — and not Israel — on the condition that there would be no modifications and that it would be returned.

But an Israeli statement said that Israeli experts examined the bullet at a laboratory in Israel — while the State Department said the process involved “independent, third-party examiners”.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that it remained impossible to determine the source of the shooting “and, as such, the investigation will continue.”

Further inflaming tensions after Abu Akleh’s death, baton-wielding Israeli police descended on mourners during her funeral and grabbed Palestinian flags, with the pallbearers struggling not to drop her casket.

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