Al-Jazeera / May 19, 2022
The Israeli military believes the investigation would lead to controversy in Israel; Abu Akleh family not surprised, calls for transparent probe.
The Israeli military is not planning to investigate the killing of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, according to an Israeli media report, leading her family to reiterate their call for a transparent probe into her shooting.
Israel’s Military Police Criminal Investigation Division believes an investigation that treats Israeli soldiers as suspects will lead to opposition within Israeli society, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on Thursday.
Abu Akleh, 51, was killed by an Israeli soldier last Wednesday, according to witnesses and colleagues who were present when she was shot while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
In response to the report, Abu Akleh’s family said they were not surprised by the Israeli military potentially not investigating her death.
“We were expecting this from the Israeli side. That’s why we didn’t want them to participate in the investigation,” the family said in a statement to Al-Jazeera. “We want to hold whoever is responsible for these acts accountable.”
“We urge the United States in particular – since she is a US citizen – and the international community to open a just and transparent investigation and to put an end to the killings.”
The veteran reporter, who lived in occupied East Jerusalem, was a US citizen. She spent nearly three decades covering the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
‘The army is untouchable’
On the day she was killed, Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and a vest clearly marked with the word “press”. She was hit in the back of the neck, in the small space between the helmet and the vest. Shots continued to be fired when colleagues and bystanders attempted to help Abu Akleh.
The Abu Akleh family received reassurances from the US government that her killing would be investigated.
Israeli authorities initially said Palestinian fighters were responsible for her death, circulating video of Palestinian men shooting down an alleyway.
However, researchers from the prominent Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found the spot where the clip was filmed: 300 metres (985 feet) away and with no line of sight to the location where Shireen was shot. Al-Jazeera’s Sanad news verification and monitoring unit also conducted an investigation and reached a similar conclusion.
Israel later backtracked from its suggestion and said it would open an investigation into the killing.
Previous investigations into the killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers have led to controversy within Israel – many Israelis believe soldiers should not be prosecuted for such acts.
“The reason for this is that you would actually have to open a criminal investigation into a serving Israeli army officer or soldier on an active military operation. That’s something that Israeli politics in this current climate finds absolutely untenable,” Al-Jazeera’s reporter Imran Khan said from West Jerusalem.
“The government would be attacked if that investigation took place. The opposition would use it to make political ground.”
“Also, generally with Israelis itself, they see the army as being untouchable, as being defenders of Israel and therefore anything that they do on a military operation is untouchable,” he said.
The Ha’aretz report also said there was “no suspicion” of a criminal act, with the soldiers questioned saying they thought they were firing at a Palestinian fighter, despite witnesses and Al-Jazeera journalists reporting that there was no shooting in Abu Akleh’s vicinity.
Bullet fragments were retrieved from Abu Akleh’s body but the Palestinian Authority has declined to give the evidence to Israel, saying the latter has a long history of not investigating the deaths of Palestinians properly and merely issuing light sentences or warnings to its soldiers who have carried out killings.