NY Times says Israeli forces ‘most likely’ shot Shireen Abu Akleh

A New York Times investigation concluded that an Israeli soldier “most likely” shot and killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, adding to a growing number of independent investigations that found the US correspondent Palestinian had been killed by Israeli forces.

The New York Times report, published on Monday, said no Palestinian gunmen were near Abu Akleh at the time she was killed in the occupied West Bank, dismissing early Israeli theories blaming the Palestinians for the incident.

The investigation relied on available video footage, witness testimony and acoustic analysis of bullets fired around the time Abu Akleh was killed.

“A month-long investigation by The New York Times found that the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh was fired from the approximate location of the Israeli military convoy, most likely by a soldier from an elite unit” , says the report.

Abu Akleh’s killing on May 11 sparked international outrage and calls for accountability for attacks on journalists. The slain journalist covered Israeli events and attacks in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for 25 years, becoming a familiar face in the Arab world.

She was killed while wearing full press gear clearly identifying her as a journalist, as she prepared to cover an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Reports from the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the Bellingcat investigative group have previously concluded that Israeli forces likely killed Abu Akleh. A CNN investigation last month found evidence to suggest the veteran journalist was killed in a “targeted attack by Israeli forces.”

An investigation by the Palestinian Authority also revealed that Abu Akleh was deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces.

Last week, Al Jazeera obtained an image of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, which was extracted from his head. According to ballistics and forensic experts, the bullet was designed to pierce armor and is used in M4 rifles, which are carried by the Israeli military. The cartridge was made in the United States, experts said.

Al Jazeera Media Network accused Israeli forces of murdering the journalist “in cold blood”.

Israel, which has repeatedly changed its story about how Abu Akleh was killed and its stance on the investigation, has dismissed the reports.

At the end of May, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he expressed his “protest” to his American counterpart Antony Blinken against what he called a “biased investigation into [Abu Akleh’s] death by the Palestinian Authority as well as CNN’s so-called “investigation”.

Blinken and other officials in President Joe Biden’s administration have called for a transparent investigation into Abu Akleh’s murder while insisting that Israel is the authority to conduct such an investigation. Washington also rejected the possible involvement of the International Criminal Court in the case.

Palestinian rights advocates denounced the US stance, stressing that Israel cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

“Palestinian deaths rarely attract the attention of the international community, and soldiers accused of crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank are rarely convicted,” the New York Times report said Monday.

Despite investigations and available evidence pointing the finger at Israel, Blinken said earlier this month that the facts of Abu Akleh’s murder “have yet to be established”.

In the same remarks, the top US diplomat called for an “independent” investigation, but the State Department later told Al Jazeera that there “has been no change” in the US approach – that ‘Israel should be the investigating party.

After Abu Akleh’s murder, Israeli forces attacked mourners at his funeral, nearly forcing pallbearers to lay down the coffin of the slain journalist.

Israel initially said that “it seems likely that armed Palestinians” were responsible for Abu Akleh’s murder.

After the incident, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office shared a video of Palestinian gunmen firing into an alley, suggesting they were the ones who shot Abu Akleh. But the theory was quickly debunked as gunmen had no line of sight to the murdered journalist who was killed hundreds of yards away. And the video was taken hours before the correspondent was killed.

A few days later, the Israeli army acknowledged that the journalist may have been killed by Israeli fire, but ruled out the possibility that she was deliberately shot.

Israeli authorities have also changed their stance on the investigation. While Israel demanded access to the bullet that killed the journalist, it said early on that there would be no criminal investigation into the incident.

But Israeli media later quoted the Israeli army’s top lawyer as saying the army was “doing everything possible” to investigate the incident.

Earlier this month, however, The Washington Post quoted the Israeli military as saying it “has already concluded that there was no criminal conduct” in Abu Akleh’s killing.

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