Israel Says in New Report That its Forces Likely Killed Shireen Abu Akleh

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Mourners attend a memorial ceremony for Shireen Abu Akleh, to mark the 40th day of the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 19. (Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images via JTA.org)

By Philissa Cramer

An Israeli soldier very likely fired the gunshot that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May, an analysis released by the Israel Defense Forces Monday concluded.

But no one present during the killing, including the soldier considered likely to have fired the fatal shot, will be punished, military officials said, and the army released a statement saying it was still possible that Abu Akleh had been killed by Palestinian gunfire.


The official conclusion marked a shift from the Israeli government’s previous positions about what happened during the incident, which has drawn international scrutiny. At first, officials said they believed a Palestinian was likely to have killed Abu Akleh, citing a video they said was from the scene. Soon after, they conceded that it was possible that an Israeli soldier had fired but said they could not know for sure.

Over the following months, the United StatesUnited Nations and multiple media organizations concluded after conducting their own investigations that the gunshot had likely come from an Israeli soldier.

The new Israeli analysis comes to the same conclusion. It says there is a “high likelihood” that an Israeli shot killed Abu Akleh, a respected journalist for Al Jazeera who was wearing a flak jacket identifying her as a member of the press at the time. A military official told Israeli media Monday that a single soldier had been identified as likely to have fired the fatal shot, according to a Times of Israel report.

Neither that soldier nor anyone in his chain of command will be punished for the shooting, which took place as Abu Akleh and other journalists were reporting about an IDF operation in Jenin, a West Bank city that has become a stronghold for Palestinian militant groups.

Abu Akleh’s family said in a statement that it was not satisfied with Israel’s admission of likely culpability. They said they want an investigation and trial by the International Criminal Court and for the United States to press for greater accountability for Abu Akleh’s death.

After a string of terrorist attacks within Israel earlier this year, the Israeli army has been engaged in an extended crackdown against Palestinian militants. Frequent raids in the West Bank have resulted in 85 deaths since the beginning of the year, according to Palestinian Health Authority statistics. Israeli officials say they have conducted more than 2,000 operations and arrested more than 1,500 people suspected of terrorist activity. An Israeli operation targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in the West Bank and Gaza triggered a brief exchange of hostilities last month.

On Monday night, Israeli forces razed the Jenin home of the man identified as responsible for a fatal shooting on Tel Aviv’s Dizingoff Street in April in which three people were killed and 11 were wounded. Israeli forces say they are pursuing many members of the man’s family who are suspected of militant activity.

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