U.S. tells Israel it will open probe into death of Al Jazeera reporter

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the American probe “a grave mistake.”

By World Israel News Staff

The U.S. has informed Israel that it will open an investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran Al Jazeera reporter who was shot and killed in May during a firefight between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the American probe “a grave mistake,” and wrote on Twitter that “the IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation, the details of which were presented to the Americans.”

“I made it clear to the American representatives that we stand behind the IDF soldiers, that we will not cooperate with any external investigation, and we will not allow interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added.

According to an Israeli official cited by the Kan public broadcaster, Biden administration officials had informed the Justice Ministry of the development and said they may call on Israel to hand over materials relating to the case as necessary.

In May, 57 House Democrats called on the FBI to launch an investigation into the death of Abu Akleh, a U.S. citizen, after accusing the Palestinian Authority of not cooperating with Israeli authorities in its refusal to hand over the bullet that killed her.

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In September, the IDF released the findings of its internal investigation into her death, concluding that while it is impossible to conclusively determine the source of the shot which fatally wounded the journalist, there is a “high possibility” that the shot was fired by Israeli troops.

On the morning of May 11, 2022, the Jerusalem-born journalist, a longtime correspondent for Al Jazeera, was shot and killed while on the scene of a gun battle between Islamic Jihad terrorists and IDF soldiers in the Palestinian Authority-administered city of Jenin.

An Al Jazeera photographer was also wounded in the incident.

In its September report, the IDF emphasized that the troops were operating in Jenin on the day of Abu Akleh’s death in response to a wave of deadly terror attacks across Israel, noting that 11 of the recent attacks had been perpetrated by residents of Jenin.

The report also highlighted the “wild and indiscriminate gunfire” by Islamic Jihad terrorists, adding that bombs were thrown at the IDF soldiers on the scene.

Based on interviews with soldiers, forensic tests, a chronological analysis of events minute-by-minute during the incident, an analysis of sound from the scene, and on the relative positions of the terrorists and soldiers involved, investigators determined that “it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”

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“However,” the army said in a statement at the time, “there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire in which life-threatening, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.”

“It is also important to emphasize and clarify that throughout the entire incident, IDF gunfire was fired with the intent of neutralizing the terrorists who shot at IDF soldiers.”

Investigators added that it is plausible that Abu Akleh was hit by a shot fired by one of the Islamic Jihad terrorists.

“An additional possibility is that Ms. Abu Akleh was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen toward the direction of the area in which she was present.”

Given the circumstances of the incident, the Military Advocate General ruled that no criminal investigation should be opened against any of the Israeli security personnel involved.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said at the time that the U.S. “welcomed Israel’s review of this tragic incident.”

The investigation into Abu Akleh’s death was impeded in part by the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to cooperate with Israeli investigators, with Ramallah declining to transfer the bullet which killed Abu Akleh to Israeli forensics experts.

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The bullet was ultimately handed over to officials from the U.S. embassy, which allowed Israeli experts to examine the round.

Both Israeli and American experts concluded that the bullet was too badly damaged for any conclusive determination, based on forensic tests alone, about where the fatal shot originated.

Several high-profile Democratic lawmakers, led by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Patrick Leahy, were not satisfied with the IDF’s investigation and called for the State Department to launch its own probe.

Thirteen progressive Democrats co-sponsored legislation calling for federal authorities to determine if Abu Akleh was killed with U.S weapons.