An Al Jazeera journalist was shot dead by Israeli forces in a “war crime” in the occupied West Bank earlier this month, an official Palestinian investigation concluded on Thursday.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Al Jazeera have blamed Israeli forces for killing Shirin Abu Akleh on the morning of May 11, when he was covering an Israeli military operation in the Jenin camp north of the West Bank.
Israeli authorities have retaliated by saying that a Palestinian gunman in the Abu Akleh area may have been shot dead or mistakenly killed by an Israeli soldier.
PA Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib, who presented the findings of the Palestinian investigation, said, “All the proven information constitutes elements of the crime of murder … According to national law, they are a war crime and a violation of international law.”
The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest and a helmet marked “Press”, was shot dead just below his helmet.
Abu Akleh was reportedly killed in a 5.56 mm armor piercing round fired from a Rugar Mini-14 rifle.
The report further states that a bullet hole in a nearby tree indicates “targeting the upper parts of the body with the aim of killing.”
“All this information: the type of missile, the weapon, the distance, the fact that there was no obstruction in sight and that he was wearing a press jacket led us to the conclusion that (Shirin) Abu Akleh was a target of assassination.”
“The only source of fire was the Israeli occupying forces,” he said.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior PA official, said a copy of the report had been sent to US authorities, and a copy would be given to Abu Akleh’s family and Al Jazeera.
A CNN report published this week, controversial by Israel, also hints at an intentional killing, citing its impact on the tree.
Explosives weapons expert Chris Cobb-Smith told the US News Network that “the number of strike marks on the tree on which Shirin was standing proves that it was not a random shot, it was aimed at him.”
Israeli authorities have quickly denied the Palestinian report’s conclusion, with Defense Minister Benny Gantz saying the Israeli army would never target journalists.
Referring to the Israeli Defense Forces, he said in a statement that “any claim that the IDF intentionally harms journalists or civilians not involved is a blatant lie.”
“Despite repeated appearances by the Israeli side, the Palestinians refuse to cooperate, which raises the question of whether they really want to reach the truth,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority refused to hand over the bullet to the Israeli authorities for further investigation due to lack of confidence.
Gantz also hit CNN on Thursday.
“Attempts to bring war crimes charges against IDF troops, such as promoting a false assessment published by CNN, undermine the ability to achieve peace and stability in the region, and ultimately encourage terrorism,” he said.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)