The Al Jazeera news network said Thursday that it would submit a case file to the International Criminal Court on the death of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh.
The Qatar-based network and the Palestinian Authority have accused Israeli soldiers of deliberately killing her. Israel rejects those allegations as a “blatant lie.” It says she was shot during a firefight between soldiers and Palestinian terrorists, and that only ballistic analysis of the bullet — which is held by the PA — can determine who fired the fatal shot.
An AP reconstruction lent support to witnesses who say the veteran Palestinian-American correspondent was killed by Israeli fire, but any final conclusion may depend on evidence that has not yet been released.
Al Jazeera said it has formed an international legal team to prepare a case dossier to be submitted to the ICC. The court launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes last year. Israel is not a member of the ICC and has rejected the probe as biased against it.
Al Jazeera said the case file would also include the Israeli bombing of the building housing its offices in Gaza City during last year’s war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, “as well as the continuous incitements and attacks on its journalists operating in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Israel said the building — which also housed the Gaza office of The Associated Press — contained Hamas military infrastructure but has not provided any evidence. The AP was not aware of any purported Hamas presence in the building and condemned the strike as “shocking and horrifying.” No one was hurt in the strike, which came after an Israeli warning to evacuate.
“The network vows to follow every path to achieve justice for Shireen, and ensure those responsible for her killing are brought to justice and held accountable in all international justice and legal platforms and courts,” Al Jazeera said.
Israel says it cannot determine whether Palestinian gunmen or its own soldiers fired the fatal shot unless the PA hands over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for ballistic analysis. The PA has refused to cooperate with Israel in any way, saying it doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself.
The PA announced the results of its own probe on Thursday, saying Abu Akleh was deliberately killed by Israeli forces and that there were no militants in the area. Defense Minister Benny Gantz rejected the findings, saying “any claim that the IDF intentionally harms journalists or uninvolved civilians is a blatant lie.”
In his statement, Gantz noted that the IDF has been tackling a wave of terrorism “which in recent weeks has claimed the lives of 20 people” and that “many of the terrorists who conducted the attacks came from the Jenin area,” where Abu Akleh was killed.
PA Attorney General Akram Al Khateeb, in announcing the results of the probe Thursday, said the bullet that killed her was an armor-piercing 5.56 mm NATO round and that it appeared to have been fired by a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle.
The Israeli military declined to comment on whether the gun described by the Palestinians matches one the military has previously identified as having possibly fired the fatal shot. It also declined to say whether the army uses the Ruger Mini-14 or whether any were in use during the May 11 raid in which Abu Akleh was killed, in the West Bank town of Jenin.
Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation with the PA, with the participation of the US. Both Israel and the PA are in sole possession of potentially crucial evidence, and neither is likely to accept any conclusions reached by the other.
The Guardian reported Friday that Abu Akleh’s family has allowed her death to be added to a separate legal complaint being submitted to the ICC by Bindmans, a London-based law firm. Abu Akleh will be the fifth journalist covered in the case, joining four other Palestinian reporters who were allegedly injured or killed by the IDF during last May’s Gaza war. Bindmans said in a press release that their case demonstrated the repeated failure of Israeli authorities to probe such cases or grant reparations to the victims.
Separately on Thursday, a Biden administration official told The Times of Israel that the US would not be launching its own investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, who was a dual Palestinian-American citizen. Instead, the administration will continue advising the sides on their respective investigations. The official expressed hope that the PA will share its evidence with Israel.
Abu Akleh had spent more than 25 years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was a widely known and respected on-air correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.