Israel Insists Al Jazeera Journalist Was Not Shot Intentionally, as UN Report Demands ‘Criminal Investigation’
The Israeli Defense Forces on Friday insisted that the fatal shooting of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May was unintentional, pointing out at the same time that it had not received access to critical evidence that might determine whether she was killed by an Israeli soldier or a Palestinian gunman.
“Ever since the incident, the IDF has been investigating and reviewing the circumstances of Ms. Abu Akleh’s death,” an IDF statement said. “The IDF investigation clearly concludes that Ms. Abu Akleh was not intentionally shot by an IDF soldier and that it is not possible to determine whether she was killed by a Palestinian gunman shooting indiscriminately in her area or inadvertently by an IDF soldier.”
The claim that the death of Abu Akleh, a senior correspondent for the Al Jazeera network, was accidental was part of Israel’s response to a UN probe into Abu Akleh’s shooting which placed the responsibility for her death squarely on the soldiers of the Israelis.
Speaking in Geneva, Ravina Shamdasani — spokesperson for UN Human Rights Commissioner Michele Bachelet — argued that it was “deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation” into Abu Akleh’s killing.
“All information we have gathered — including official information from the Israeli military and the Palestinian Attorney-General — is consistent with the finding that the shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities,” she claimed. “We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists.”
In response, the IDF reiterated its demand that the Palestinian Authority end its refusal to provide the Israelis with the bullet that killed Abu Akleh and conduct a joint investigation into her death.
“The IDF once again reiterates its call to the Palestinians to share access to the bullet with which the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed,” the statement said. “The Palestinian Authority cooperates with Israel on investigations from time to time. The Palestinians’ refusal to transfer the bullet and hold a joint investigation with American representation is telling of their motives.”
Separately, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz again offered condolences to Abu Akleh’s family in his response to the UN.
“Her loved ones deserve to know the truth behind her tragic death — and we may only uncover the truth by conducting a thorough ballistic, forensic investigation and not through unfounded investigations such as the one published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” Gantz said in a statement.
Gantz pointed out that “IDF troops came under heavy gunfire during the events that led to Shireen’s death, and responded accordingly. I once again call on the Palestinian Authority to deliver the bullet that hit Shireen, to the State of Israel. That is what must be done in order to uncover the truth.”