US investigators believe Israeli army gunfire probably killed the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, although a forensic analysis of the bullet was inconclusive.
A statement released by the State Department spokesperson Ned Price said “detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners … could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet”, which was badly damaged.
, US investigators were granted “full access” to both Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations and “concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu [Aqleh]”.
A well-known figure in the Arab world, Abu Aqleh, 51, was shot in the head in the West Bank city of Jenin in May during what her colleagues at the scene said was a burst of Israeli gunfire on a group of journalists covering an IDF raid. Abu Aqleh was wearing a helmet and protective vest clearly marked “press”.
US investigators, Price said in the statement, had “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel”.
Last month, a UN investigation found Israeli forces had fired at Abu Aqleh with what they said were “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets”. UN human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said they had found “no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists”.
Responding to the US announcement, Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), accused Washington of protecting Israel.
“The truth is clear but the US administration continues to stall in announcing it,” Abu Youssef said. “We say Israel killed Shireen Abu Aqleh and it has to be held responsible for the crime it has committed.”
The PA has rejected Israeli offers to conduct a joint investigation under US supervision, saying it did not trust Israel and that its military had deliberately targeted Abu Aqleh.
This weekend, however, Palestinian officials claimed they were misled after handing the bullet to a US security coordinator for examination who in turn gave it to an Israeli forensics team.
Israel initially blamed the reporter’s death on Palestinian militants but has since acknowledged that an IDF soldier may have “accidentally” killed her. It has not launched a criminal investigation.
Army data released under Israel’s freedom of information act and analysed by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, shows Israeli soldiers have near-total impunity from prosecution in cases in which Palestinians are harmed.
Footage of Israeli police storming Abu Aqleh’s funeral procession in Jerusalem, causing pallbearers to nearly drop her coffin, have added to Palestinian and international outrage.