US says IDF fire ‘probably responsible’ for death of Shireen Abu Akleh, but examination of bullet inconclusive

The U.S. Security Coordinator, according to the statement, “concluded that firing from IDF (Israel Defense Force) positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.” That conclusion came ‘summarizing both’ IDF and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations — investigations to which the US security coordinator has been granted ‘full access’ in recent weeks, Price said. .

The American Security Coordinator – who leads a inter-agency team that coordinates with the Israeli government and the PA — “found no reason to believe this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against Palestinian Islamic Jihad factions on May 11, 2022 in Jenin, which followed a series terrorist attacks in Israel,” Price said.

“We once again send our deepest condolences to the Abu Akleh family,” he said.

The family said in a statement Monday that they were “incredulous” at the findings and that “the suggestion that US investigators, whose identity is not disclosed in the statement, believe the bullet ‘probably originated from Israeli positions “is cold comfort”.

Ali al-Samoudi, an Al Jazeera reporter who was shot with Abu Akleh, said he “expected” inconclusive results and called the United States a real “enemy of democracy and human rights”.

Price said the United States will “remain engaged” with Israel and the Palestinian Authority and “call for accountability.”

He noted that the examination of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was “extremely detailed” and that “independent third-party reviewers, through a process overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator”, were not able to conclude definitively on its origin.

“Ballistics experts determined that the bullet was severely damaged, which precluded a clear conclusion,” Price said.

Following the US findings, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that “the IDF investigation was unable to determine who is responsible for the tragic death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but it was able to determine conclusive that there was no intention to harm him”. Israel, Lapid said, “expresses its sadness for his death,” and he gave his “full and unequivocal support” to the IDF soldiers.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a separate statement that “it is not possible to determine the source of the shooting – and as such the investigation will continue.”

The IDF said the forensic analysis was conducted at a forensic laboratory in Israel by Israeli experts in the presence of representatives of the US security coordinator.

“Despite these efforts, the physical condition of the bullet and the quality of its characteristics do not permit a ballistic examination to conclusively determine whether or not the bullet was fired from the weapon that was examined,” according to an IDF statement. .

The Palestinian public prosecutor said on Monday that it was “not true” that the bullet was badly damaged.

Palestinian Authority Attorney General Akram Al Khatib said on Saturday that the PA had received ‘guarantees’ from the United States that the ball would not be given to the Israelis, and did not respond to follow-up questions after the IDF said they were involved. The US Embassy in Jerusalem told CNN on Monday it had no further comment on exactly who was examining the bullet.

Abu Akleh’s family in their statement criticized the focus on the bullet that killed her, calling such emphasis ‘misplaced’ and ‘an attempt by the Israeli side to spin the narrative in its favour’. .

They also noted that “there were many eyewitnesses to the murder, and we have now had the benefit of receiving information from several local and international media outlets, human rights organizations and that an Israeli soldier fired the fatal shot, as there had been no other armed elements in the area of ​​Jenin where Shireen was murdered.”

A CNN investigation in May uncovered evidence – including two videos of the shooting scene – that there was no active fighting, or Palestinian militants, near Abu Akleh in the times that took place. preceded his death. Footage obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, an audio forensic analyst and an explosive weapons expert, suggested that Abu Akleh, who was wearing a helmet and blue protective vest marked “Press” at the time of his murder, was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.

CNN is among at least five outlets that have conducted investigations suggesting the shot was fired from a position where Israeli troops were located. None of the investigations found evidence of Palestinian militants near Abu Akleh when she was shot, or of militants who had a direct line of fire towards her. An investigation by the United Nations Human Rights Office came to the same conclusions as the journalistic investigations.

Abu Akleh’s family vowed Monday to continue to defend her, writing in their statement that saying the US investigation, “with its utter lack of transparency, undefined goals and support for Israel’s overall position is disappointment would be an understatement.”

“We continue to call on the U.S. government to conduct an open, transparent, and thorough investigation of all facts by independent agencies free from political consideration or influence,” the family said.

Two dozen US senators last month called for direct US involvement in the Abu Akleh murder investigation. US President Joe Biden plans to visit Israel and the West Bank later this month.

The family previously said they were not told the bullet was being turned over to US authorities.

A U.S. official told CNN before the findings were released that Washington pushed Palestinians to give them access to the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for weeks, and the State Department’s findings come after House lawmakers and the Senate called for the involvement of the US government to ensure accountability for Abu Akleh’s murder.

Palestinian officials made the ball available to US authorities on Saturday. PA Justice Minister Mohammad Al-Shalaldeh told Al Jazeera on Sunday evening that US officials had returned the ball.

This story was updated with additional details on Monday.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Tamara Qiblawi contributed to this report.

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