Forensic tests on bullet that killed Palestinian journalist ‘inconclusive’, say US and IDF

Bullet which killed Al Jazeera reporter too badly damaged to establish who fired the fatal shot, investigators conclude.

By World Israel News staff

Forensic tests conducted on the bullet which fatally wounded an Arab American journalist in Jenin nearly two months ago have failed to determine conclusively whether the fatal shot was fired by Israeli soldiers or Islamic Jihad terrorists, the IDF and US State Department both said Monday.

In separate statements made Monday afternoon, the US State Department and Israeli military both said that despite the examinations conducted under US supervision, it remains unclear whether reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by a shot fired by IDF troops or Palestinian terrorists.

Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera correspondent who had U.S. citizenship, was killed while covering a shootout in Jenin in May.

“After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” Ned Price, a State Department spokesperson, said Monday.

“Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.”

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The IDF concurred with the assessment, releasing a statement Monday that the source of the fatal gunfire could not be deduced from the bullet.

“The IDF investigation concluded that the source of the fire that led to the death of Ms. Abu Akleh could not be determined based on the available information,” an IDF spokesperson said, while emphasizing that an internal army probe found that no soldiers deliberately shot at Abu Akleh.

“The IDF investigation conclusively determined that no IDF soldier deliberately fired at Ms. Abu Akleh.”

On Saturday, the United States Security Coordinator for Israel (USSC) received from the Palestinian Authority the bullet which the PA claims killed Abu Akleh.

The bullet remained under the custody of U.S. Lt.-Gen. Michael R. Fenzel after receiving it from the Palestinian Authority, until it was returned Sunday after the examination was completed.

The ballistic examination of the bullet was conducted in an Israeli forensic laboratory, the IDF said, with Israeli experts examining the bullet in order to determine the connection between the bullet and the weapon from which it was fired. USSC representatives were present throughout the entire process.

“Despite these efforts,” the IDF said, “the physical condition of the bullet and the quality of the characteristics on it do not enable a ballistic examination to conclusively determine whether or not the bullet was fired from the weapon which was examined.”

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While the Palestinian Authority initially refused to transfer the bullet which is claimed to have killed Akleh, on Saturday the Palestinian Authority agreed to transfer the bullet to American officials, while continuing to refuse Israel’s demands that the IDF be allowed to conduct its own examinations of the bullet.

“Approval has been given for the American side to conduct a forensic examination of the bullet that killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The bullet will not be turned over to Israel,” PA Public Prosecutor Akram al-Khatib told Al Jazeera on Saturday.

On Sunday, the IDF announced that it had access to the bullet while it was in US custody.

“The bullet was handed over to the Americans and will undergo a professional Israeli test in their presence. This is an IDF check, an IDF interrogation in an American presence, an Israeli interrogation,” army spokesperson Ran Kochav said.

“The Palestinians agreed to hand over the bullet to the Americans in order for an Israeli investigation to be conducted in their presence.”

Because Abu Akleh had U.S. citizenship, President Joe Biden pressured Israelis and Palestinians to cooperate on the investigation. Biden is scheduled to visit Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia on July 13-16.

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