Mondoweiss / June 12, 2022
The Washington Post today published an investigation of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh a month ago and it concludes just what the AP, CNN, and Bellingcat investigations found, and that eyewitnesses said on May 11: An Israeli soldier likely killed Abu Akleh in the occupied territories.
The Post openly disputes the shifting Israeli “claims” about who killed Abu Akleh, and all but accuses the Israeli army of withholding evidence that its soldier killed her. The lengthy investigation will add pressure on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to actually demand an independent investigation and accountability. It will put Joe Biden on the hot seat with journalists when he visits Israel later this month (and surely embraces the prime minister and defense minister and foreign minister).
The Post cites interviews with “multiple eyewitnesses” and reviews of numerous videos and two independent analyses of audio/ballistic evidence to reach the exact same conclusion as CNN: that the gunman was about 600 feet away from Abu Akleh in Jenin, just where the Israeli convoy was that morning.
The Washington Post examined more than five dozen videos, social media posts and photos of the event, conducted two physical inspections of the area and commissioned two independent acoustic analyses of the gunshots. That review suggests an Israeli soldier in the convoy likely shot and killed Abu Akleh. The Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, has said it is possible one of its soldiers fired the fatal shot, but claimed any gunfire was directed toward a Palestinian gunman who was standing between the Israeli soldiers and the journalists, and that the reporters might have been shot unintentionally.
The Post specifically disputes the Israeli claims:
Israel’s military has not released any evidence showing the presence of a gunman. The available video and audio evidence disputes IDF claims there was an exchange of fire in the minutes before Abu Akleh was killed and supports the accounts of multiple eyewitnesses interviewed by The Post, who said there was no firefight at the time.
Reporters Sarah Cahlan, Meg Kelly and Steve Hendrix grant authority in their story to Ali al-Samoudi, the producer for Al Jazeera who was also shot by the soldier and who was coordinating his every movement with Abu Akleh that morning.
[Samoudi said] “It was totally calm, there was no gunfire at all.” Suddenly, there was a barrage of bullets…
The shots seemed to come from the military vehicles, Samoudi recalled.
So the Israeli army story is falling apart before our eyes.
Shifting explanations from the IDF about the source of gunfire that killed Abu Akleh emerged from the beginning.
The Post publishes a statement from the Israeli army that it “will continue to responsibly investigate the incident, in order to get to the truth of this tragic event.” But again the Israeli Defense Forces insist that they must have the bullet to reach a conclusion, and the Palestinian Authority has refused to turn it over.
This is horsefeathers, because the Israeli army obviously knows right now that its soldier killed Abu Akleh and it has a ton of its own evidence it’s not showing anyone.
Notice how the Post says that the Israeli army is holding out that evidence– video from drones and body cameras. And notice how the Post questions the Israeli army conclusion that no Israeli soldier deliberately targeted Abu Akleh.
The IDF did not say how it arrived at the conclusion that its soldiers did not know journalists were present, or that they were not deliberately targeted. An IDF spokesman directed Post reporters toward statements made by an Israeli military official, Col. Arik Moel, in a television interview, in which he says there was a “better chance” Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian fire than by “one of the five bullets” shot by an Israeli soldier who had been present that day. No evidence was provided for the assertion.
The IDF did not respond to a question about what, if anything, Israeli footage of the incident — from drones or body cameras — may show.
The Post’s analysis of the gunshots is precisely what CNN’s was, as to the distance of the shooter.
[Steve] Beck found the first two bursts of gunfire, 13 shots in total, were shot from between 175-195 meters (574-640 feet) away from the cameras that recorded the scene — almost exactly the distance between the journalists and the Israeli military vehicles.
This is great news because it suggests that the press is not going to abandon Shireen Abu Akleh in death. It also puts a lot of pressure on the New York Times, our leading newspaper, to stand up for Shireen Abu Akleh. And it gives political capital to the 57 Congresspeople who have demanded an independent investigation of the killing.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006