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UN claims Israel killed Al Jazeera journalist, with ‘seemingly well-aimed’ fire

Human Rights Office says bullet which killed Abu Akleh ‘came from Israeli security forces,’ urges criminal probe; Israel says it can’t be sure who killed her without testing bullet

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 United Nations said Friday that its findings showed that the shot that killed Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 was fired by Israeli forces.

The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed on May 11 during clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank.

“We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva. “It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.”

“We at the UN Human Rights Office have concluded our independent monitoring into the incident,” Shamdasani said. “The shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities,” she added.

She said that the information reviewed came from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general.

“We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists,” Shamdasani said.

Protesters hold candles and a photo of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF raid in Jenin, in Haifa on May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

In line with its human rights monitoring methodology, the UN rights office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.

The findings showed that seven journalists arrived at the western entrance of the Jenin refugee camp soon after 6 a.m. At around 6:30 a.m., as four of the journalists turned into a particular street, “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them from the direction of the Israeli security forces,” the UN stated on Friday.

“One single bullet injured Ali Sammoudi in the shoulder; another single bullet hit Abu Akleh in the head and killed her instantly,” Shamdasani stated.

Shamdasani said Friday that a “prompt, thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation” must be carried out.

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 Palestinian Authority, which conducted its own investigation, immediately blamed Israeli soldiers for the killing. According to PA chief prosecutor Akram 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,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement last month.

Israel initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for the shooting, but later acknowledged that Abu Akleh could also have been killed by Israeli soldiers.

Israeli military officials have said that they have identified a gun that could have fired the shot that killed Abu Akleh, but that confirmation would require ballistic analysis to match the gun to the bullet. Ramallah has refused Israeli calls to hold a joint investigation or turn over the bullet to Israel.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged Israel to open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing and into all other killings by Israeli forces in the West Bank and in the context of law enforcement operations in Gaza.

The army has yet to open a criminal investigation into the shooting. “Given that Abu Akleh was killed in the middle of an active combat zone, there can be no immediate suspicion of criminal activity absent further evidence,” top Israeli army prosecutor Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi said in a statement.

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