JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel says there is a high possibility” that IDF gunfire accidentally killed veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this year while she was reporting on a counterterrorism operation in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria.
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday announced the long-awaited findings of an investigation into Abu Akleh’s high-profile death.
Abu Akleh, a Christian, was killed on May 11 during an Israeli counterterrorism raid in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin. She was wearing a helmet and vest with the word “PRESS” printed across her chest at the time of her killing. Abu Akleh’s death set off an international outcry and finger-pointing among Israelis and Palestinians over who was responsible.
The IDF said that while it is likely Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli gunfire, it is impossible to know for sure.
“It appears that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit Ms. Abu Akleh,” the IDF statement said. “However, there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.”
The military also repeated earlier claims that Abu Akleh could have also been hit by “armed Palestinian gunmen” firing in her direction.
The IDF did not present any new evidence in its report but stressed it believes Abu Akleh’s killing was accidental and that no Israeli soldier will be held legally accountable for her death.
Palestinian witnesses to the killing, Palestinian officials and Abu Akleh’s family have all blamed Israel for her death and say it was intentional. They also reject Israeli claims that she was killed during a raging gunbattle between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, and point to amateur videos appearing to show that the area was quiet for several minutes before she was shot.
“Our family is not surprised by this outcome since it’s obvious to anyone that Israeli war criminals cannot investigate their own crimes. However, we remain deeply hurt, frustrated and disappointed,” her family said in a statement.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the announcement was “another Israeli attempt to evade responsibility for her killing.”
Abu Akleh's former employer, Al Jazeera, also rejected the results of the Israeli probe and said it is “clearly an attempt to circumvent the opening of a criminal investigation.”
Washington welcomed the results of the Israeli investigation and called for accountability.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday, “We welcome Israel’s review of this tragic incident, and again underscore the importance of accountability in this case, such as policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”
IDF Chief of Staff, Aviv Kohavi called Abu Akleh’s death a “devastating incident” and said the military takes “great efforts” to prevent the deaths of journalists.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials have said they will pursue Abu Akleh’s case before the international courts.
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