Israeli forces were “likely responsible” for the death of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh even though the bullet that killed her could not be definitively linked to the IDF, according to an American-led investigation.
The findings of the probe by the US Security Coordinator were announced on Monday, a day after the bullet was handed to the United States by the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said its investigation “showed conclusively” that there was no intention to harm Abu Akleh.
But her family said they were left “incredulous” at the findings.
The Al Jazeera reporter was shot in May while reporting on an IDF raid near Jenin, in the West Bank, targeting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
Israeli officials initially suggested she have been killed by a shot fired by Palestinians, but subsequently proposed a joint investigation into the journalist’s death.
The offer was rejected by the Palestinian Authority, which said it did not trust Israel.
It eventually handed the bullet that killed her to US officials on Saturday.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said that “independent, third-party examiners” were unable to reach a definitive conclusion regarding the bullet’s origin because it was badly damaged.
He said investigators had been granted access to separate Israeli and Palestinian investigations and concluded that “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.”
But Price added: “The [Security Coordinator] found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation”.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said: “The IDF investigation was unable to determine who is responsible for the tragic death of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but it was able to determine conclusively that there was no intention to harm her.
“Israel expresses sorrow over her death.”
Abu Akleh’s family said in a statement that the US finding that the bullet likely came from Israeli positions was “cold comfort” and “insulting to Shireen’s memory”.
“The truth is that the Israeli military killed Shireen according to policies that view all Palestinians – civilian, press or otherwise – as legitimate targets, and we were expecting that an American investigation would focus on finding the responsible parties and holding them accountable”.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the findings showed the circumstances leading to the Al Jazeera reporter’s death were still unclear.
“The defence establishment is committed to uncovering the truth,” he said in a statement.
“In this specific case, despite the forensic investigation, it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion.
“Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine the source of the shooting – and as such, the investigation will continue.”
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