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Israeli military shot Abu Akleh in targeted killing, CNN investigation concludes

"The number of strike marks on the tree where Shireen was standing proves this wasn't a random shot, she was targeted."

Jerusalem24– Two weeks after the killing of prominent Aljazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, CNN published its own investigative report concluding that Abu Akleh was killed in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.

CNN based its conclusion on testimonies of journalists present in the incident, and audio and video analysis indicating that the Palestinian-American journalist was shot from a distance of about 200 meters. The international network included a map showing the positions of Abu Akleh, the Israeli army, and Palestinian fighters.

The investigation by CNN offers new evidence – including two videos of the scene of the shooting – that there was no active combat or Palestinian fighters near Abu Akleh in the moments leading to her killing. CNN says, “Videos obtained by CNN, corroborated by testimony from eight eyewitnesses, an audio forensic analyst, and an explosive weapons expert, suggest that Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces.”

Even without access to the bullet that hit Abu Akleh, there are ways to determine who killed Abu Akleh by analyzing the type of gunfire, the sound of the shots and the marks left by the bullets at the scene.

One of the witnesses CNN gathered testimonies from was a 16-year-old who was among the group of eyewitnesses on the street, who told CNN that there were “no shots fired, no stone-throwing, nothing” before Abu Akleh was shot. He said that the journalists had told them not to follow as they walked toward Israeli forces, so he stayed back. When the gunfire broke out, he said he ducked behind a car on the road, three meters away, where he watched the moment she was killed. The teenager shared a video with CNN, filmed at 6:36am, moments after the journalists had left the scene for the hospital in a private vehicle, which showed five Israeli army vehicles driving slowly past the spot where Abu Akleh was shot. The convoy then turned left before leaving the camp via the roundabout.

CNN reviewed a total of 11 videos showing the scene and the Israeli military convoy from different angles – before, during, and after Abu Akleh was killed. Eyewitnesses who were filming when the journalist was shot were also in the line of fire and pulled back when the gunfire started, so do not capture the moment she is hit with the bullet. ​

The visual evidence reviewed by CNN includes a body camera video released by the Israeli military, which captures soldiers running through a narrow alleyway, holding M16 assault rifles and variants, as they spill out onto the street where the armored vehicles are parked. An Israeli military source told CNN that both sides were firing M16 and M4-style assault rifles that day.

CNN hired Chris Cobb-Smith, a security consultant and British army veteran, who said he believes Abu Akleh was killed in discrete shots – not a burst of automatic gunfire. To reach that conclusion he looked at imagery obtained by CNN which show markings the bullets left on the tree where Abu Akleh fell and journalist Shatha Hanaysha was taking cover.

Following is a part of CNN’s report:

“The number of strike marks on the tree where Shireen was standing proves this wasn’t a random shot, she was targeted,” Cobb-Smith told CNN, adding that, in sharp contrast, the majority of gunfire from Palestinians captured on camera that day formed “random sprays.”

CNN asked Robert Maher, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Montana State University, who specializes in forensic audio analysis, to assess the footage of Abu Akleh’s shooting and estimate the distance between the gunman and the cameraman, taking into account the rifle being used by the Israeli forces.

The video that Maher analyzed captures two volleys of gunfire; eyewitnesses say Abu Akleh was hit in the second barrage, a series of seven sharp “cracks.” The first “crack” sound, the ballistic shockwave of the bullet, is followed approximately 309 milliseconds later by the relatively quiet “bang” of the muzzle blast, according to Maher. “That would correspond to a distance of something between 177 and 197 meters,” or 580 and 646 feet, he said in an email to CNN, which corresponds almost exactly with the Israeli sniper’s position.

At 200 meters, Cobb-Smith said that there was “no chance” that random firing would result in three or four shots hitting in such a tight configuration. “From the strike marks on the tree, it appears that the shots, one of which hit Shireen, came from down the street from the direction of the IDF troops. The relatively tight grouping of the rounds indicate Shireen was intentionally targeted with aimed shots and not the victim of random or stray fire,” the firearms expert told CNN.

The CNN investigation corroborates the findings of the investigation Al-Haq concluded two weeks ago immediately after the killing of Abu Akleh.

Al-Haq based their findings on a detailed timeline of events they constructed based on witness statements, video evidence, and geolocation tools, as well as autopsy results and preliminary ballistics examination.






Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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