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US hands over bullet that killed Abu Akleh to the Israelis

PA Prosecutor General: "We obtained guarantees from the American coordinator that the work of examining the projectile would be carried out only by them, without the participation of the Israeli side."

Jerusalem24 – There have been a number of contradicting claims regarding the examination of the bullet that killed Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, including which party currently has it in custody.

Here is what Jerusalem24 understands has happened so far:

  • The Palestinians handed over the bullet to the US for a ballistic examination on Saturday, on condition of no Israeli involvement;
  • The Israeli military is conducting the ballistic examination of the bullet;
  • The initial agreement between the PA and the US was to conduct the examination in a lab in Ramallah;
  • The Biden administration pressured the PA into handing over the bullet ahead of Biden’s visit.

The Palestinian Authority handed over the bullet to US authorities yesterday, Palestinian Prosecutor General Akram Al-Khatib said yesterday evening.

Al-Khatib added that the bullet would be handed back to the Palestinians shortly afterwards, following a forensic ballistics examination.

The surprise announcement comes after the PA refused on multiple occasions these past six weeks to hand over the bullet to the Israelis, because of their “lack of confidence” in the occupation authorities conducting a transparent investigation.

The PA demanded that Israel not be involved in carrying out the ballistic examination. However, IDF spokesman Ran Kochav said this morning: “The bullet was handed over to the Americans and will undergo a professional Israeli test in their presence. This is an IDF check, an IDF interrogation in an American presence, an Israeli interrogation.”

Kochav added, “The Palestinians agreed to hand over the bullet to the Americans in order for an Israeli investigation to be conducted in their presence.”

Israeli sources said earlier that the Americans were the ones conducting the ballistic tests in an Israeli facility, contradicting Palestinian sources which said the examination was initially expected to be conducted in a lab in Ramallah, according to Haaretz.

In an interview with Voice of Palestine radio, Al-Khatib said that the American examination of the bullet would be conducted at the headquarters of the US embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

He continued, “We obtained guarantees from the American coordinator that the work of examining the projectile would be carried out only by them, without the participation of the Israeli side.”

Israeli Deputy Interior Minister Yoav Segalovitz told Israel’s Army Radio on Sunday morning that Prime Minister Yair Lapid was involved in transferring the bullet to the Americans. He added that the tests could take several days and that it would involve a number of experts, in order to “verify that this is an unambiguous opinion and that there is no more spin like we’ve had in the past month, month and a half.”

Sources have told Jerusalem24 that Lapid was not involved.

Yesterday, Axios quoted US and Israeli officials as saying: “The administration of President Joe Biden is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to give the United States the bullet that killed the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in an attempt to determine its source.”

Axios pointed out that “these persistent attempts appear to be caused by the White House’s desire for tangible progress in the investigation before President Biden’s visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank next week.”

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker in Jerusalem said there have been a lot of calls for the Palestinians to hand over the bullet to the US but that they have been refusing to do so. “What has changed is a call from US secretary of state Anthony Blinken a couple of days [ago] to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas where pressure was put to hand over the bullet so that the Americans can analyze it,” Dekker said.

Some sources in Israeli media are saying the forensic examination has already taken place, while others say it will take several days.

We will continue updating this story as we obtain more information.

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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