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Month after Al Jazeera reporter killed, IDF yet to complete probe

Israeli officials repeatedly assert final conclusions not possible without bullet that hit Shireen Abu Akleh — which the PA refuses to hand over

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in Gaza City, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in Gaza City, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Four weeks after the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during armed clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin, the Israel Defense Forces has yet to complete its probe into the matter.

Abu Akleh was killed on May 11 while covering a gun battle that broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during a military raid in Jenin. Both the PA and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh. Israeli officials strongly denied targeting the reporter and say it is impossible to determine whether she was shot by an Israeli or Palestinian unless Ramallah agrees to a joint probe and hands over the bullet that killed her.

Other independent media investigations have also suggested the bullet which killed Abu Akleh was fired from an Israeli gun, but the findings were not conclusive.

On Thursday, an Israeli military spokesperson told The Times of Israel that the investigation was ongoing, declining to comment on when it was expected to be completed.

“The investigation into the shooting that led to the death of reporter Sheerin Abu Akleh has not yet been completed. The interim conclusions of the investigation have been published,” the spokesperson said.

The interim report, published two days after the incident, narrowed Abu Aklehs’s death down to two scenarios — one involving an instance of indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire, and the other a case of possible errant IDF sniper fire.

Israeli officials have repeatedly said that only a ballistic analysis of the bullet — which is held by the PA — and the soldiers’ guns can determine if one of them fired the fatal shot.

The PA has refused to hand over the bullet, saying it doesn’t trust Israel and pointing to previous cases of killings by soldiers who received little or no punishment.

Yellow tape marks bullet holes on a tree and a portrait and flowers create a makeshift memorial at the site where Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Jenin, on May 19, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

On May 27, an Israeli official said the IDF was slated to announce the results of its own investigation within days, but clarified that they would likely not be definitive given that the bullet remains in the PA’s possession.

The IDF’s Military Police will not open its own probe as prosecutors do not believe there is suspicion of criminal activity by the soldiers.

The lengths of military probes into the deaths of Palestinians vary wildly, sometimes taking several weeks, while others have lasted much longer. In some cases, the army has never published any update after its “initial findings” stage.

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