State Dept. contradicts Israeli assertions that it had carried out its own analysis.
By World Israel News Staff
The U.S. on Tuesday said that only its forensic experts examined the bullet that is thought to have killed veteran Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, seemingly contradicting Israeli claims that it also conducted tests.
After weeks of refusing to cooperate with investigators, the Palestinian Authority — in the face of pressure from the Biden administration –relented over the weekend, and handed over the bullet to the U.S. for ballistic analysis.
However, a day later, the Israeli military said that the bullet would “undergo a professional Israeli test in [the Americans’] presence.”
“This is an IDF check, an IDF interrogation in an American presence, an Israeli interrogation,” IDF 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.”
On Monday, the IDF clarified to say that the bullet was at all times in the possession of U.S. authorities from the moment of the handover.
In separate statements made Monday afternoon, the U.S. State Department and Israeli military both said that following forensic examination, the bullet was too badly damaged and it remained unclear whether Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli or Palestinian fire.
State Department spokesman Ned Price on Tuesday said that the examination was carried out by two members on the team of the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC).
“Local experts, whether they were Israeli or Palestinian, did not conduct the USSC examination of the bullet,” Price said.
“The USSC had full custody of the bullet from the moment it was provided by the PA to the USSC until the moment it was returned by the USSC to the PA,” he said.
However, as noted by The Times of Israel, Price did not identify the experts by nationality, and did mention that non-Americans were on the staff.
Price also reiterated the State Department’s stance that Abu Akleh was likely shot by Israeli fire by mistake.
“It was the considered judgment of the USSC that this was not intentional and that this was nothing more than the tragic results of a counterterrorism operation in which a non-combatant — in this case a Palestinian-American journalist — was killed,” Price said on Tuesday.
“As a professional military force, the IDF… is in a position to consider steps to see to it that something like this can’t happen again,” Price said.
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid) on Tuesday said the inconclusiveness could mean the round transferred to the US embassy was “the wrong bullet.”
“The claim that it can’t be determined from the bullet from which weapon it was shot and who it hit, could indicate that it’s the wrong bullet,” Ben Barak told Israel’s Army Radio.
He added that it is impossible to verify whether the bullet handed over was in fact “the bullet that hit the journalist.”
Senior Palestinian officials have slammed the U.S. findings and continued to insist Israel killed Abu Akleh.
And according to Hebrew media reports, Israeli officials were upset by the State Department’s decision to include the notion of Israeli culpability in its statement, especially in light of the fact that the bullet’s damaged condition meant no definitive conclusion could be reached.
Abu Akleh, a reporter for Al Jazeera, was killed on May 11, while covering a firefight between IDF soldiers and Arab terrorists in Jenin.
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 next week.