The military on Friday released interim findings from its probe into the death of prominent Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed Wednesday amid clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin.
The Israel Defense Forces said it had not yet been able to determine who fired the fatal shot. But it said it had narrowed down the possibilities to two scenarios — one involving an instance of indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire, and the other a case of possible errant IDF sniper fire.
In the first, Abu Akleh was hit when armed Palestinians fired “dozens of bullets indiscriminately” toward military vehicles in the northern West Bank city. The IDF said the bullets were fired in the direction where Abu Akleh was standing, adding that it was “possible this is the source of the gunfire that hit her.”
The second scenario covered by the probe involved a soldier who the military said used a gun with a telescopic sight to fire back at a gunman through a slit in the armored vehicle he was riding in.
“The gunman fired bursts toward the IDF soldier several times and there is a possibility that the reporter was struck by the soldier’s fire toward [him],” a statement from the IDF said.
Abu Akleh was about 200 meters from the vehicle at the time, according to the military.
The IDF said a “professional ballistics test” could be decisive in determining how Abu Akleh was shot but noted that the Palestinian Authority has so far rebuffed Israeli requests to hold a joint investigation and examine the bullet. It said the Palestinians also rejected offers to be present and take part in the inquiry alongside an American representative.
The army statement also expressed condolences over Abu Akleh’s death and said IDF Chief of Staff Avi Kohavi has ordered the investigation to continue.
“The IDF will continue to act to thwart terror wherever necessary and will continue to fulfill its missions while making an effort to refrain from harming those uninvolved,” the statement added.
The release of the interim findings came as Abu Akleh’s funeral was held in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Abu Akleh, who covered the Mideast conflict for more than 25 years, was killed by gunfire to her head while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during a military raid in Jenin. The death sparked international condemnation.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of “executing” her and rejected Israeli calls for a joint investigation to determine responsibility. Israeli officials meanwhile have declared that it is too soon to determine who fired the bullet that killed her.
Her casket was brought to Jerusalem from Ramallah Thursday, following what was described as a full state memorial at Abbas’s Ramallah compound, with officials, foreign diplomats and a long stream of mourners present.
Abu Akleh’s death came during a raid on Jenin, which has become the locus of Israel’s attempts to crack down on terror emanating from the West Bank.
Nineteen people have been killed in Palestinian attacks in recent weeks, with several of the terrorists coming from Jenin and the surrounding area. IDF activity has killed more than 30 Palestinians, most of them involved in attacks or clashes with Israeli forces. Among the slain Palestinians were an unarmed woman and at least two apparent passersby, fueling criticism that Israel often uses excessive force.
An initial autopsy of Abu Akleh’s body by Palestinian coroners found that it was not possible to tell whether she was killed by Israeli or Palestinian gunfire.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that the PA was hindering efforts to investigate the incident.
The Qatari-owned Al Jazeera has accused Israel of deliberately killing her and vowed to take legal action. Reporters who were with her said there were no Palestinian gunmen in the area.
Asked about the investigation and Israel’s offer for the Palestinians to participate, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that US officials “stand ready to assist either party in any way that we can.”