The official said the army was investigating three separate shootings involving its soldiers after the death of the reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, a longtime correspondent for the Al Jazeera news channel, as well as the injuries of her producer in the field. of refugees from Jenin on Wednesday. .
The acknowledgment that one of Israel’s soldiers might have been guilty marked a significant reversal of Israel’s initial explanation for the shooting: that Abu Akleh was “most likely” hit by fire from Palestinian militants.
American Reporter Killed By IDF, Says Network; Israel calls for an investigation
The IDF official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of an ongoing investigation, said the army was investigating an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers in a vehicle and one or more Palestinian gunmen who he said were shooting at the vehicle. The official said the shooting occurred on a street about 490 feet from where Abu Akleh was killed. Of the three incidents being investigated, it was “the most likely that he was involved in Shireen’s death,” the official said.
“A soldier with a rifle and a very good aiming system was shooting at a terrorist with an M16, in very good condition, a very clear picture, who was shooting at our troops. What we are verifying now is Shireen’s location,” he said, adding that military investigators had taken the rifles of the Israeli service members involved in the incident to have them available for ballistic tests.
In the hours after Abu Akleh’s murder, Al Jazeera and the Palestinian authorities said that Israel was responsible. Multiple witnesses interviewed by The Washington Post said there was no exchange of fire between the Israeli army and the Palestinian gunmen in the area where Abu Akleh was reporting, or at the time she was shot, contradicting Israeli claims that she was trapped. in the crossfire.
Israel said it had requested the launch of a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority that would be overseen by US officials.
On Thursday, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein Al Sheikh called the killing an “assassination.” He said that the Palestinian Authority has refused to cooperate with Israel in the investigation and will not hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh to Israeli authorities, saying that she had been taken for an initial ballistics examination to An-Najah University in Nablus. .
Sheikh said that the Palestinian Authority will release the results of the investigation to Abu Akleh’s family and the public, as well as to the US, Qatari and other relevant authorities. (Al Jazeera is based in Qatar.)
Palestinian and Israeli authorities have not yet released what caliber of bullet was used in the shooting, evidence apparently critical to determining responsibility. Rayan al-Ali, director of the An-Najah Institute of Forensic Medicine, told a news conference on Wednesday that an initial investigation showed the bullet was fired at “a range of more than a meter” but was not yet possible. determine that it was shot with the weapon of an Israeli soldier.
Services for Abu Akleh on Thursday included a memorial gathering in Ramallah attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, followed by a procession of thousands of mourners who carried his body to his home in Jerusalem. His funeral is scheduled for Friday. Abu Akleh was a Palestinian Catholic.
In Ramallah, hundreds of tearful Palestinians pressed to touch, or simply get close to, a figure who has become a beloved presence in living rooms across the region for decades. One of his colleagues compared the emotional outpouring to the funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The Biden administration, members of Congress and United Nations officials, among others, have called for an investigation into his murder.
Palestinian witnesses at the scene who spoke to The Post on Wednesday said the fighting in Jenin, during an Israeli raid on the city, was far from where Abu Akleh was stationed and had ended long before she was attacked.
Ali al-Samudi, the producer, who was shot in the back, told The Washington Post that the area where the journalist was waiting was “very quiet” when individual gunfire came his way. All the reporters wore helmets and protective vests that marked them as “Press”.