Shireen Abu Akleh: Bullet that killed journalist given to US forensic experts

Middle East Eye  /  July 2, 2022

Palestinian Authority hands over bullet that killed prominent Palestinian-American journalist, shot while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin.

The Palestinian Authority has handed the bullet that killed prominent Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to US authorities for forensic examination, a Palestinian official said on Saturday.

Abu Akleh was killed on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Her death sparked Palestinian outrage and international condemnation.

“The relevant parties in the state of Palestine agreed to allow the US side to conduct ballistic works on the bullet. It was handed over to them,” Akram al-Khatib, general prosecutor for the Palestinian Authority, said in a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Khatib said that the bullet was given to US experts “for technical work”. He reiterated the Palestinian refusal to share the bullet with the Israelis.

He added that the Palestinians welcomed the participation of any international bodies to “help us confirm the truth”.

“We are confident and certain of our investigations and the results we have reached,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from US diplomatic officials in Jerusalem.

Investigations by the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations, as well as several journalistic probes, found that the shot that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli forces.

“We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” she said.

The UN rights office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.

The probe examined submissions from the Israeli army and the Palestinian attorney general. 

But the Israeli army branded the UN’s findings unfounded, insisting it was “not possible” to determine how Abu Akleh was killed.

“The IDF (Israel Defence Force) 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… or inadvertently by an IDF soldier,” the military said.

‘Independent, credible investigation’

The official Palestinian investigation found that the Qatar-based television channel’s star reporter was killed after being hit by a bullet just below her helmet.

It found that Abu Akleh was killed with a 5.56 millimetre armour-piercing round fired from a Ruger Mini-14 rifle.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised last month to pursue accountability over the killing of Abu Akleh wherever the facts might lead.

“We are looking for an independent, credible investigation. When that investigation happens, we will follow the facts, wherever they lead. It’s as straightforward as that,” said Blinken.

The Israeli military, prime minister’s office and defence ministry did not immediately comment when asked whether Israel would be cooperating with the US investigation and, if so, how.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz said in May that Israel was “prepared to conduct an investigation in collaboration with international actors”.

But it says it cannot determine whether she was shot accidentally by an Israeli soldier or by a Palestinian militant during an exchange of fire without examining the bullet to see if it matches an Israeli military rifle.

US President Joe Biden is expected to meet separately with Palestinian and Israeli leaders during a visit to the region between 13-16 July.

Video footage showed that Abu Akleh, 51, was wearing a blue vest clearly marked “Press” when she was shot.

At least two colleagues who were with her said they had come under Israeli sniper fire without being near any militants.