JERUSALEM – The Palestinian Authority handed over to a team of American investigators the bullet that it said killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Oqla, Palestinian officials said on Saturday, in a move aimed at clarifying the circumstances of the journalist’s killing.
Ms. Abu Okla, a veteran television reporter for Al Jazeera and a household name in the Middle East, was fatally shot on May 11 during an early morning Israeli army raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, sparking international outrage.
The circumstances of her death are disputed, but officials say a study of the bullet is necessary to conclusively determine who fired it.
Palestinian officials say Ms. Abu Oqla was deliberately killed by an Israeli soldier. Israeli authorities have said a soldier may have shot her by mistake, but have also suggested she may have been killed by a Palestinian gunman.
Today, Saturday, Palestinian Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib told Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, “We are confident and sure of our investigations and the results we have reached,” explaining that the bullet was handed over to a team. From American ballistic specialists, not to the Israeli authorities.
Mr. Al-Khatib had said earlier that the journalist was killed by a 5.56mm armor-piercing shell made of steel. Ms. Abu Okla was wearing a helmet and a protective jacket with the word “press” written on it when she was shot in the head.
A month-long investigation by the New York Times found that the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Okla was fired from the approximate location of an Israeli military convoy early that morning, most likely by an elite unit soldier, confirming eyewitness reports from the scene.
Israeli military officials said it would only be possible to determine the source of the shooting unambiguously if the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited control over parts of the West Bank, handed over the bullet extracted from Ms. Abu Akle’s body so that the military could do so. It either matches a rifle used that morning by an Israeli sniper or rules out Israel’s involvement in the killing.
US and Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the plans to examine the bullet.
Israel had previously called for a joint investigation and offered to examine the bullet in the presence of Palestinian and American representatives. The Palestinian Authority refused to conduct a joint investigation, citing mistrust of the Israelis.
The United States called on both sides to cooperate and share evidence with each other.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters last month that the sharing of evidence “would be able to facilitate what our goal is, and what ought to be a collective goal, and that’s an impartial, transparent, and thorough investigation, culminating in accountability.”
The Biden administration has come under increasing pressure from members of the House and Senate to launch an independent investigation into the murder of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was a US citizen.
a message President Biden, dated June 23 and signed by 24 Democratic senators, called for direct US participation in the investigation into her death.
The Palestinian Authority’s decision to hand over the bullet comes two weeks before Biden is expected to visit the Middle East for the first time since taking office.