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Palestinian Authority hands US bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh for examination

Ramallah has previously refused to make the move after veteran Al Jazeera reporter’s death under disputed circumstances; forensic analysis could shed definitive light on killing

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, May 19, 2022. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)
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, May 19, 2022. (Majdi Mohammed/AP)

The Palestinian Authority announced on Saturday night that Ramallah had handed the bullet that killed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh to American officials so that they could conduct a potentially definitive ballistic analysis of the shell.

“Approval has been given for the American side to conduct a forensic examination of the bullet that killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The bullet will not be turned over to Israel,” said PA Public Prosecutor Akram al-Khatib, in statements widely circulated in Palestinian media.

Khatib later told the WAFA news agency that the bullet had been transferred over to “American experts who had arrived for this purpose.”

The US Office of Palestinian Affairs declined to comment. “We have no new information to share on this issue at this time,” a spokesperson said.

Israeli military officials have said that they have identified a soldier’s gun that could have fired the shot that killed the veteran Al Jazeera journalist, while not ruling out Palestinian gunfire as responsible, but said that confirmation would require ballistic analysis to match the gun to the bullet.

But for weeks since Abu Akleh’s death in Jenin in May, the PA insisted that it would only share the results of its investigation with Washington, not the bullet itself.

“We refused a joint investigation, because those who fabricated the history of a people, stealing land and homeland, can fabricate a narrative. We do not trust them,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at a memorial marking 40 days since Abu Akleh’s death.

The US has urged Ramallah to share the results of its investigation with Israel so as to shed potentially definitive light on the incident.

In a public letter in early June, a bipartisan group of 25 US lawmakers urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure the PA to release the bullet.

“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to the forensic evidence in Abu Akleh’s death for an independent investigation so that all parties can reach a definitive conclusion about the events leading to her death, and hold all parties accountable,” the lawmakers wrote.

People gather at the Al Jazeera offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 11, 2022, following the killing of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot dead during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen as she covered an Israeli raid on the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Abu Akleh, 51, was shot dead while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin in mid-May alongside a team of other journalists. During the raid, a firefight broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen. At some point, Abu Akleh was shot in the head.

Video from the scene did not show any Palestinian gunmen near the Palestinian journalists. A few moments before, the Palestinian journalists could be seen joking and chatting easily before the bullets ring out, killing Abu Akleh.

Israel says it cannot definitively say who killed her until it examines the bullet. Until Saturday night, Ramallah had refused to share the bullet with any other side, including the US.

The veteran Al Jazeera journalist was a familiar face to millions of viewers across the Arab world. An American citizen who held an Israeli-issued East Jerusalem identity card, Abu Akleh was widely regarded as a trailblazing correspondent, both for women and for Palestinians. Her death shocked Palestinians and sparked an international outcry.

The PA, which conducted its own investigation, immediately blamed Israeli soldiers for the killing. According to PA chief prosecutor Khatib, forensic evidence and eyewitness testimony proved that Abu Akleh was fleeing when she was deliberately targeted and killed by Israeli troops.

Israeli authorities rejected the PA’s findings as false and have continued with their own probe into the incident.

“Any claim that the IDF intentionally targets journalists or those uninvolved [in terror] is a crude and blatant lie,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement at the time.

Palestinians clash with Israeli soldiers in the village of Al-Sila Al-Harithi, near the West Bank city of Jenin, May 7, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Israel initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for the shooting, but later acknowledged that Abu Akleh could also have been killed by Israeli soldiers. The army has yet to open a criminal investigation into the shooting.

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