Israel admits ‘high possibility’ its army killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

Israel killed more than 46 Palestinian journalists between 2000 and 2020. 

There is a “high possibility” that slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was “accidentally hit” by Israeli army fire, Tel Aviv admitted on Monday, though it ruled out a criminal probe into the incident.

Israel publicly released its own independent investigation of the attack on Monday afternoon, in which it claimed its soldiers were under fire from Palestinian fighters at the time of her killing. This allegation has been denied by witnesses on the ground, as well as countless probes that confirmed no Palestinians fighters were present in the area.

The Palestinian-American journalist, 51, was shot and killed on 11 May by an Israeli sniper, per numerous witness testimonies and independent investigations.

The late journalist at the time was covering an Israeli raid in Jenin while in a vest and helmet that clearly identified her as a member of the press. The bullet targeted a specific area on her head that was not covered by the helmet.

“It is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh,” the report said, adding that it remains a “possibility” that she “was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen,” Al Jazeera quoted the report as saying.

“After a comprehensive examination of the incident, and based on all the findings, the Military Advocate General found that under the circumstances of the case, there is no suspicion of a criminal offence that justifies the opening of a Military Police investigation,” the report said.

Senior Israel Occupation Force (IOF) officials stated that they had met the soldier in question during a background briefing for journalists prior to the announcement of the Israeli findings, brazenly declaring that “if he did it, he did it by mistake”.

They also incessantly echoed that they were “very proud of the conduct of our soldiers,” and that the soldiers “were briefed and acted according to procedure”.

Qatar, along with global governments, condemned the killing by the Israeli occupation forces, describing it as an attempt to silence journalists.

The killing sent shockwaves around the world as Palestinian and Arab households worldwide mourned the loss of the journalist described as the voice of Palestine.

Multiple detailed probes by the UN, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and several media outlets such as CNN and the Associated Press (AP), found that Abu Akleh was indeed shot by Israeli fire and that no Palestinian fighters were present at the scene at the time she was killed.

In June, the UN found the bullet had been fired from an Israeli sniper.

The latest development comes amid overwhelming testaments and probes pleading Abu Akleh was slain by an Israeli soldier, backed by witnesses, Al Jazeera, many investigations by the United Nation, human rights organisations, and other outlets.

The Zionist state was quick to distort the narrative at the time of the incident, saying Palestinian fighters were on site of the murder.

However, Israel was later forced to take back its statement following testimonies by eyewitnesses as well as rights groups and organisations.

In a statement responding to Israel’s latest statement on Monday, the family of Abu Akleh described it as an attempt to obscure the truth.

“Today, the Israeli government and military released a statement that tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility for killing Shireen Abu Akleh, our aunt, sister, best friend, journalist, and a Palestinian American.

“We’ve known for over 4 months now that an Israeli soldier shot and killed Shireen… Israel has refused to take responsibility for murdering Shireen. 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.

Lack of accountability

Since the tragic murder of the Al Jazeera journalist, rights organisations, her family, as well as her employer Al Jazeera have continued to push for accountability.

“The investigations all reached the same conclusion: confirming the eyewitness accounts that Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli occupation forces. Such conclusions reinforce the assertions of Al Jazeera Media Network and the Abu Akleh family that Shireen was deliberately targeted by the Israeli occupation forces,” said Al Jazeera.

The network’s international legal experts have been working to refer the case to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Abu Akleh’s family continue to call on the US, Israel’s main ally, to conduct an independent investigation. The US directly funds the Israeli regime with up to $4 billion.

In July, the family travelled to the US after President Joe Biden dodged a meeting with them during his Tel Aviv and West Bank visits. 

Abu Akleh’s family met with US State Secretary Antony Blinken instead, though the meeting yielded no progress in the case of the martyred journalist.

To date, the US has failed to label Israel as the perpetrator of the crime, despite investigations by US media outlets, including The New York Times and the Washington Post.

In July, the US examined the bullet and claimed that it was likely fired “unintentionally” from Israelis. The US State Department said that it could not reach a conclusion in its investigation due to the ammunition being “badly damaged”.

The probe found the bullet had come from “positions” belonging to Israeli soldiers, with the United States downplaying the killing as “the result of tragic circumstances” during an Israeli raid “against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on US authorities to follow up on its meeting with Abu Akleh’s family “with substantive action to investigate her death and bring those responsible to justice.”

Israel has long targeted the press for their reporting on the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

According to the PJS, Israel killed more than 46 Palestinian journalists between 2000 and 2020.  In April this year, there were 57 Israeli violations recorded against the press.

“Since Shireen was killed our family has called for a thorough, independent, and credible US investigation that leads to accountability, which is the bare minimum the US government should do for one of their own citizens. We will continue to demand that the US government follow through with its stated commitments to accountability,” the family’s statement added.

“Accountability requires action. We continue to call on the many members of Congress, civil society organisations, journalists, and the public to keep the pressure on President Biden and Secretary Blinken to follow through with meaningful action.

“Since Israel is incapable of holding themselves accountable, we are also pressing for a full International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation and trial. Israel’s killing of our dear Shireen cannot be swept aside-no other family should have to endure what our family has had to. We cannot and will not stop until we have justice for Shireen,” the statement noted.

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