Israeli officials Monday announced that an investigation into the death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh found a “high possibility” that an Israeli soldier accidentally shot Abu Akleh in an exchange with Palestinians.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera, died in May while covering an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raid on the West Bank city of Jenin. Despite wearing a helmet and vest to identify her as a reporter, Abu Akleh was attacked near the entrance of a refugee camp. In the wake of Abu Akleh’s death, the UN and the International Federation of Journalists issued statements of condemnation and called for an investigation into attacks on Palestinian journalists.
In a statement, IDF said a special task force of IDF commanders and relevant personnel thoroughly reviewed the circumstances surrounding Abu Akleh’s death. The investigation included IDF soldiers involved in the incident, sound and forensics examinations and a detailed area simulation. The IDF said that the poor physical condition of ballistics meant the investigation was not able to uncover whether Palestinian or Israeli forces fired the shot that led to Abu Akleh’s death.
The IDF investigation ultimately concluded:
According to the investigations and their findings, it appears that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh. However, there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire in which life-threatening, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.
While US officials from the Department of State said they welcomed the IDF’s investigation, Abu Akleh’s family criticized the IDF’s efforts. In a statement to the press, Abu Akleh’s family said they were “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.” Abu Akleh’s family called for an independent US investigation into the incident and repeated earlier calls by the International Federation for Journalists for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.