IDF identifies soldier’s gun that may have killed journalist, needs bullet to verify
Military official calls on PA to turn over bullet and cooperate in probe of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, which it has been refusing to do due to lack of trust in Israeli authorities
AP — The Israeli military has identified a soldier’s rifle that may have killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but said it cannot be certain unless the Palestinians turn over the bullet for analysis, a military official said Thursday.
The announcement marked a small sign of progress in the investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot on May 11 while covering an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
Palestinian officials, along with fellow journalists who were with Abu Akleh, have said Israeli troops stationed nearby killed her. The Israeli army says she was shot during a battle between troops and Palestinian gunmen, and it cannot be determined who fired the fatal bullet without a proper analysis.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians, who have the bullet taken from her body, have refused, saying they don’t trust Israel. They say they are conducting their own investigation and that they are ready to cooperate with any country except for Israel.
The military official stressed that while the source of the shot is still unclear, “we have narrowed down the IDF weapon that might be involved in the fire exchange near Shireen.”
He renewed the call for the Palestinians to release the bullet. If they do so, he said, Israel will “hopefully be able to compare the bullet to that barrel and check if there is a match.” He spoke on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines.
Earlier Thursday, Haaretz reported that Military Police will not open an investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing, as prosecutors do not believe there is suspicion of criminality. The IDF is still investigating Abu Akleh’s death, but not through legal channels.
Last week it released the results of a preliminary investigation that offered two possible causes of death. It said that in one scenario, she may have been hit by Palestinian gunfire during a fierce shootout with Israeli troops.
In the second scenario, it said she might have been hit by an Israeli soldier who shot through a “designated firing hole” in a military vehicle at a Palestinian gunman who was shooting at the vehicle. It said it could not determine the source of fire without analyzing the bullet.
The Palestinians have been conducting their own investigation. Last Friday, the Palestinian public prosecutor said preliminary findings show Abu Akleh was killed by deliberate fire from Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue.
Bellingcat, an independent Dutch-based open-source research firm, has conducted its own analysis of material gathered largely from videos on social media. It said its initial findings lent support to Palestinian witnesses who say she was killed by Israeli fire.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, was a household name across the Arab world, known for documenting Palestinian life under Israeli rule.
The shooting drew condemnations and statements of concern from around the world. Israel also has been widely criticized for the behavior of police who pushed and beat mourners at her funeral last Friday, causing the pallbearers to nearly drop her coffin.
Police have said they intervened because the casket was seized outside Jerusalem’s St. Joseph’s Hospital by a mob who prevented it from being loaded onto a hearse, as previously agreed, for that part of the funeral procession. But Abu Akleh’s brother said the family and mourners had hoped to hold a “small procession” but were “bombarded” by officers as they left the hospital. Nonetheless, police announced an internal investigation into the officers’ conduct.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.