Jerusalem: The Israeli military has identified a soldier’s rifle that may have killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but said it cannot be certain unless the Palestinians turn over the bullet for analysis, a military official said Thursday.
The confirmation marked a small sign of progress in the investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, who was fatally shot on May 11 while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian officials, along with fellow journalists who were with Abu Akleh, have said Israeli troops stationed nearby killed her. The Israeli army says she was shot during a battle between troops and Palestinian gunmen, and it cannot be determined who fired the fatal bullet without a proper analysis.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinians. But the Palestinians, who have the bullet, have refused, saying they don’t trust Israel. They say they are conducting their own investigation and are ready to cooperate with any country except for Israel.
The military last week released the results of a preliminary investigation that offered two possible causes of death. It said that in one scenario, she may have been hit by Palestinian gunfire during a fierce shootout with Israeli troops.
In the second scenario, it said she might have been hit by an Israeli soldier who shot through a “designated firing hole” in a military vehicle at a Palestinian gunman who was shooting at the vehicle. It said it could not determine the source of fire without analyzing the bullet.
Asked for further details Thursday, the military official confirmed that investigators have turned their focus to a specific weapon.
He stressed that while the source of the shot is still unclear, “we have narrowed down the IDF weapon that might be involved in the fire exchange near Shireen.”
He said if the Palestinians cooperate with the investigation, Israel will “hopefully be able to compare the bullet to that barrel and check if there is a match.” He spoke on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines.
The Palestinians have been conducting their own investigation. Last Friday, the Palestinian public prosecutor said preliminary findings show Abu Akleh was killed by deliberate fire from Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue.
Bellingcat, an independent Dutch-based open-source research firm, has conducted its own analysis of material gathered largely from videos on social media. It said its initial findings lent support to Palestinian witnesses who say she was killed by Israeli fire.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, was killed in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. She was a household name across the Arab world, known for documenting the hardship of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, now in its sixth decade.
The shooting drew condemnations and statements of concern from around the world. Israel also has been widely criticized for the behavior of police, who pushed and beat mourners at her funeral last Friday, causing the pallbearers to nearly drop her coffin.