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A U.S.-overseen investigation “could not reach a definitive conclusion” on who killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but she was probably shot by Israeli troops accidentally, the State Department said Monday, over a month after her death helped reignite tensions between Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
The State Department said third-party ballistics experts couldn’t determine who shot Abu Akleh because the bullet that struck her head in May had endured heavy damage.
However, the department said it reviewed Israeli and Palestinian investigations into the shooting, and found Israeli soldiers were “likely responsible” for her death.
American investigators don’t think the shooting was intentional, but instead was “the result of tragic circumstances” while Abu Akleh was covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, according to the State Department.
Analyses by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and CNN found the bullet that killed Abu Akleh likely came from an Israeli military position in Jenin—and not from the militants whom Israeli officials originally blamed for the shooting.
Abu Akleh worked for the Al Jazeera network for 25 years and was famous in the Arab world for her coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her death helped to inflame already-volatile relations between Palestine and Israel. The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of intentionally killing Abu Akleh, with the PA referring her case to the International Criminal Court. Meanwhile, the Israeli government initially said Palestinian militants were likely responsible for her death, but subsequent probes were inconclusive. The process of investigating Abu Akleh’s death has been contentious: The Palestinian Authority—which oversees security in much of the occupied West Bank—has refused Israeli requests to hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh or open a joint investigation, though PA officials let the U.S. examine the bullet last week.
The Biden Administration has faced pressure from Congress to push for a conclusive investigation into the death of Abu Akleh, who was a U.S. citizen. The State Department has condemned her killing and criticized Israeli police for attacking mourners during her funeral procession, but the administration has largely avoided assigning direct blame.
Palestine Won’t Let Israel Evaluate Bullet That Killed Journalist As International Leaders Condemn Killing (Forbes)