The Israeli army admitted on Monday that one of its troops shot the Palestinian-American reporter of Al Jazeera Shireen Abu Akleh after mistaking her for a terrorist, news agency AFP reported. “There is a high possibility that Ms Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF (Israel Defence Forces) gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen,” the army’s final investigation report was quoted by AFP in its report.
The admission comes after the army argued for months that it was difficult to pinpoint the source of the fatal shot that killed the famed Al Jazeera correspondent in the occupied West Bank, claiming it may have been an insurgent fire.
“Our conclusion is that it’s not possible to determine unequivocally which gunfire killed her, but there’s a higher probability that she was hit by an errant shot of an IDF soldier who did not identify her as a journalist,” a senior Israeli military officer stated.
When she was shot in the head during an Israeli army operation, Abu Akleh was wearing a bulletproof vest labelled “Press” and a helmet.
In a press release published in response to the army’s assessment, the Abu Akleh family stated that Israel “refused to accept responsibility for the death” of the journalist.
“We remain terribly wounded, upset, and disappointed,” the family wrote, urging the US to undertake a “credible” probe.
The Palestinian Authority accused Israel of murdering the reporter on purpose at the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, but Israel claimed that even if a soldier fired the fatal shot, it was not intentional.
Al-Jazeera condemned the Israeli inquiry’s findings and requested an investigation by an “independent international agency.”
“Al Jazeera condemns the Israeli occupation forces’ reluctance to explicitly admit their crime and attempts to evade the prosecution of the perpetrators,” it said in a statement.
Who Is Accountable For Shireen Abu Akleh Death?
According to a senior army commander, the soldiers were under heavy fire and attempted to target Abu Akleh because they mistook her for a Palestinian insurgent.
“When they fired in her direction they didn’t know she was a journalist, it was a mistake, they thought they were firing at terrorists shooting at them,” the officer said.
“He’s sorry about it and I’m sorry about it too,” the officer said of the soldier who shot in the direction of Abu Akleh.
“He didn’t do it on purpose, it’s totally clear,” he added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, located in New York, was scathing of the army’s findings.
Its “The acknowledgement of guilt is both tardy and incomplete. They gave no identity to Shireen Abu Akleh’s killer and just his or her own evidence that the death was an accident “CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa project coordinator, Sherif Mansour, agreed.
B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group that campaigns against Israeli settlement development, called the army’s assessment a “whitewash.” It was “no mistake, it’s policy,” it stated.
In June, the United Nations ruled that there was “no indication of action by armed Palestinians nearby” when Abu Akleh was shot.
On July 4, the US stated that she was most likely shot by Israeli fire, but that there was no evidence that her death was intentional and that the bullet was too damaged to make a conclusive determination.
(With Inputs From AFP)