On Monday, the US State Department said US officials had concluded that shooting from Israeli positions likely killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Oqla, but that there was “no reason to believe” that the shooting was premeditated.
The discovery came in a statement by US State Department spokesman Ned Price after what the US said were inconclusive US-supervised tests of the bullet found from Abu Akle’s body. It said “independent third party examiners” had conducted “a very detailed forensic analysis”.
“Ballistics experts have determined that the bullet was severely damaged, preventing a clear conclusion” as to who fired the shot, Price said in the statement.
Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American reporter who was known throughout the Arab world, was shot dead while covering an Israeli military raid on May 11 in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian eyewitnesses, including her crew, said that she was killed by Israeli forces and that there were no armed men in the immediate vicinity.
Israel says she was killed during a complex battle with Palestinian militants and that only a forensic analysis of the bullet will confirm whether it was an Israeli soldier or a Palestinian militant. It has strongly denied being deliberately targeted, but says an Israeli soldier may have accidentally hit it during a shootout with an activist.
Price said US security officials examined the results of separate Palestinian and Israeli investigations and “concluded that shooting from IDF positions was most likely responsible for the killing of Shirin Abu Akleh.”
Price said that the United States “did not find any reason to believe that this was intentional, but rather the result of tragic circumstances during a military operation led by the Israeli army against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad factions.”
The Israeli military presented the findings as part of its investigation in a statement likely to anger the Palestinian Authority, which has vehemently rejected any Israeli role in the investigation and refused to share the bullet with Israeli authorities.
The military said that while the bullet remained in the custody of US officials throughout the operation, it was examined by Israeli experts in a forensic laboratory in Israel.
The army said in a statement that General Aviv Kohavi, the army’s chief of staff, had ordered the investigation to continue “using all available means.” She said that any decision on the start of a criminal investigation will not be made until after the completion of the field investigation.
The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of deliberately targeting Abu Uqla within hours of her death.
Rebuilding the Associated Press Whoever killed her backed up the accounts of Palestinian eyewitnesses, including her crew, of her killing at the hands of Israeli forces. Subsequent investigations by CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post reached similar conclusions.
Krause reported from Ottawa, Ontario. Associated Press correspondent Ilan Ben-Zion in Jerusalem contributed to this report.