The Biden administration said Monday that Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely killed by unintentional Israeli fire, but ballistics test results from the bullet removed from her body were inconclusive.
Overview: Ballistic test results could negatively affect President Bidens’ planned visit to the West Bank on July 15. The Palestinian Authority agreed to give the ball to the United States hoping that the test would conclude that Abu Akleh had been shot by Israeli soldiers.
The Biden administration has faced increased pressure from Democrats in Congress to take a more active role in the investigation.
Background: The 51-year-old Al Jazeera journalist was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. She wore a bulletproof vest marked “press”.
Israeli and Palestinian officials had conducted their own investigations into the May 11 incident, but neither was able to perform a ballistics test to see if the bullet fragment removed from his body matched the weapons used by the soldiers. Israelis during the raid. a military operational investigation had determined that it was possible that Abu Akleh had been shot by an Israeli soldier, but it was not possible to determine who fired the fatal shot without a ballistic test. He said that if an Israeli soldier shot him, it was unintentional. The Palestinian investigation determined that Israeli soldiers killed Abu Akleh.
Inside the News: After weeks of refusing to provide the ball, saying they did not trust Israel, Palestinian officials gave the ball to US security coordinator Lt. Gen. Mike Fenzel on Saturday.
On Sunday, the bullet was transferred to the Israel Police forensic laboratory in Jerusalem, Israeli officials said. Israeli officials said the US security coordinator and a US ballistics expert were present during the various tests. Forensic experts first performed a DNA test of the bullet. to determine that it was extracted from the body of Abu Akleh. A ballistic test was then carried out to try to match the bullet to the soldier’s pistol which fired in the direction Abu Akleh was standing.
What they say: “After extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent third-party reviewers, through a process overseen by the United States Security Coordinator (USSC), were unable to reach a a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“Ballistics experts determined that the bullet was severely damaged, which precluded a clear conclusion,” Price said. “In addition to forensic and ballistics analysis, the USSC has gained full access to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations over the past few weeks,” it said. -he adds. “Summarizing the two investigations, the USSC concluded that firing from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The USSC found no reason to believe it 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 of terrorist attacks in Israel.
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said in a statement on Monday that “the occupation government bears responsibility for the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh and we will continue our proceedings in international courts.”
“We will not allow attempts to hide the truth or have half-hearted references pointing the finger at Israel,” he added. Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh rejected the State Department’s statement, saying, “We call on the U.S. government to maintain its credibility and hold the Israeli fully responsible for the crime of killing Shireen Abu Akleh. “.
The IDF said in a statement that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi had been ordered to continue operational investigation into the incident based on ballistic test results. The IDF added that the military prosecutor will make a decision on a criminal investigation after the operational investigation is completed.
The IDF will continue to operate to stop terrorist attacks everywhere while doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties,” the IDF said. “The first to take responsibility for such events are the terrorists who operate from population centers.”
Behind the Scenes: Ballistics test results were ready Sunday evening local time, and findings were reported to the Biden administration, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Due to the late hour, the release of the results has been postponed until Monday, Israeli officials said.
Overview: Citing witnesses, as well as visual and audio evidence, independent investigations by multiple news agencies, including the Washington Post, AP and New York Times, found it was likely of an Israeli soldier who had fired the fatal shot.
An investigation by the UN human rights body came to a similar conclusion.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional details from the State Department, Palestinian and Israeli officials.
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