Jerusalem24 – A document published by the Israeli military on Monday which purports to reveal the results of the Israeli military investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh says there is a “high possibility” that the veteran Al Jazeera journalist was “accidentally hit” by Israeli gunfire.
Palestinian officials, human rights and civil society organizations, and the family of the slain journalist were prompt in condemning and criticizing the published results.
The Israeli military also said it would not open an investigation into any of its soldiers after the Military Advocate General found that “under the circumstances of the case, there is no suspicion of a criminal offense that justifies the opening of a Military Police investigation.”
The announcement came despite the fact that Al Jazeera Media Network and over half a dozen other leading human rights groups and international media organizations conducted their own independent investigations, all reaching the conclusion that Abu Akleh was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier.
The Israeli military document says “there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire in which life-threatening, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers.”
However, footage recorded immediately before the shooting can unequivocally debunk that claim: a video several minutes long filmed immediately before journalist Ali Sammoudi was shot in the back, with Shireen Abu Akleh being shot in the head immediately afterwards, show no shooting in the vicinity prior to the fatal shots. The several journalists present at the scene as well as several locals are seen and heard chatting and laughing, and Shireen Abu Akleh can be seen casually beginning to walk down the road where the Israeli sniper was positioned.
Abu Akleh was killed by an Israeli sniper on 11 May during her coverage of an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank, despite wearing a helmet and flak jacket clearly marked “PRESS.”
Her colleague, Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back. Journalist Shadha Hanaysheh also came under fire as she crouched close to Abu Akleh’s body. A bystander attempting to evacuate both was also shot at three times.
Samoudi and Abu Akleh were both rushed to the nearby Ibn Sina hospital where Abu Akleh was pronounced dead.
Below are some of the reactions to the Israeli military investigation.
Shireen Abu Akleh’s family
In a statement released on Twitter, the Abu Akleh family rejected the results of the Israeli military investigation, and said they will continue to call on the US government to carry out a “thorough, independent, and credible” investigation.
Shireen’s niece Lina Abu Akleh shared the statement on her Twitter account and said, “We could never expect any type of accountability or legitimate investigation from the very entity responsible for gunning down an unarmed and clearly identifiable journalist.”
Abu Akleh Family Response to Israel’s Statement on Shireen’s Killing
We could never expect any type of accountability or legitimate investigation from the very entity responsible for gunning down an unarmed and clearly identifiable journalist. pic.twitter.com/bTfUqj5KV3
— Lina Abu Akleh (@LinaAbuAkleh) September 5, 2022
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said Abu Akleh’s killing is part of Israel’s “outrageous open-fire policy”.
The group said in a statement: “It’s not an investigation, it’s whitewash; it was no mistake, it’s policy.”
“The killing of Abu Akleh is the predictable result of Israel’s outrageous open-fire policy in the Occupied Territories. This policy claims more and more victims while the whitewash continues undisturbed.”
B’Tselem in response to the military’s announcement on the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh:
It’s not an investigation, it’s whitewash; it was no mistake, it’s policy. > pic.twitter.com/XOhfSyoGQV
— B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) September 5, 2022
Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian politician
Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi also slammed the report as “disgusting”.
“Obvious obfuscation, misdirection, & lies. The Israeli army who’s responsible for the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh has decided to exonerate itself. Disgusting,” Ashrawi wrote on Twitter.
Obvious obfuscation, misdirection, & lies. The Israeli army who’s responsible for the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh has decided to exonerate itself. Disgusting.
Israel admits ‘highly probable’ soldier mistakenly killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh https://t.co/z5zRjd8uj8
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) September 5, 2022
Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said the US-based rights group stands “in solidarity” with Abu Akleh’s family.
“All the evidence points to Israeli forces having killed her,” Shakir wrote on Twitter.
We @hrw stand in solidarity in w/ #ShireenAbuAkleh’s family. All the evidence points to Israeli forces having killed her. The Israeli army probe was a whitewash. Victims of Israeli abuse have faced a wall of impunity for years. We echo the family’s call for the US to investigate. https://t.co/E9zDTZVFej
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) September 5, 2022
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said the report is yet another attempt by Israel to avoid responsibility for Abu Akleh’s murder.
“All evidence, facts and investigations that have been conducted proved that Israel was the perpetrator and that it had killed Shireen and it should bear responsibility for its crime,” Abu Rudeineh was quoted as saying by the state-run Wafa news agency.
He said the Palestinian leadership will continue to “follow up” with the “relevant international bodies”, including the International Criminal Court, on all files related to Abu Akleh’s killing.
Israel will not be allowed to “escape punishment” for its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people, Abu Rudeineh added.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the findings released by the Israeli “occupation army” is a “new attempt to escape full responsibility for [Abu Akleh’s] assassination”, which was “proven” by all the available facts and evidence.
“The killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh […] is an all-out crime that the occupation must be held accountable for,” said Qassem.
Al Jazeera Media Network
Al Jazeera denounced the findings of the inquiry, saying it was “an attempt by the Israeli Occupation Forces to evade the criminal responsibility” for the fatal shooting of Abu Akleh.
“Al Jazeera Media Network denounces the findings of this investigation and stresses that this elusive admission is nothing but an attempt from the IOF to evade the criminal responsibility for the killing of Shireen, which has been proven by numerous independent and international investigations,” the Qatar-based network said in a statement.
“Al Jazeera condemns the Israeli Occupation Forces’ reluctance to explicitly admit their crime and attempts to evade the prosecution of the perpetrators.”