by Andrew Lapin
(JTA) – A Palestinian American journalist reporting on an Israeli military raid on a West Bank refugee camp was likely killed by fire from the Israeli military, according to the findings of two different investigations released Tuesday from the Associated Press and CNN.
The unresolved May 11 death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a venerated Al Jazeera journalist, has turned into a major international firestorm, as Israeli authorities have insisted it was possible she was killed by a Palestinian militant, while the Palestinian government has refused to cooperate on a joint investigation. Last week, 57 House Democrats called for a U.S. probe into Abu Akleh’s killing, angering Israel’s ambassador to the United States; Israeli police also rushed mourners at her funeral after they claimed funeral goers were throwing stones.
Through extensive audio and video analysis — although neither outlet had access to video showing the moment of her death — along with eyewitness interviews, the AP and CNN determined that an Israeli convoy was the most probable source of the bullet that killed the journalist.
CNN further suggested that Abu Akleh died in a “targeted attack,” citing other journalists who served as eyewitnesses and said that there had been no active exchange of gunfire with Palestinians, and that the Israeli convoy had fired on a group of journalists who had moved through the area as a group.
Returning to the location of her death and using GPS technology to map out the surrounding area, the outlets individually found that the Israeli convoy was closer and in a more direct line of sight to Abu Akleh’s location, while the nearest Palestinian militants who could have fired in her direction were behind them. Strike marks in the surrounding area and a reconstructed timeline of the convoy’s arrival also appeared to support the conclusion that she was hit by Israeli artillery, the reports said.
Parsing of available video of Abu Akleh’s killing, including video taken and released by Israeli forces, also ruled out other Palestinian suspects based on their relative locations.
Israel’s own official investigation into the incident is ongoing, with the government saying it needs the Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh in order to perform a full ballistics assessment. Separately, the Israeli Defense Forces recently said it would not pursue a criminal investigation into her killing, though it is continuing to investigate the source of the bullet.
The PA, meanwhile, has called on the International Criminal Court to investigate the matter and insists it will not cooperate with Israeli investigators, citing past investigations of Israeli misconduct toward Palestinians that were dragged out or quietly dismissed. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that any referral of the case to the Hague would harm Israeli-Palestinian relations.
In addition to CNN’s findings, Al Jazeera and the PA both allege that Abu Akleh was deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers, a charge beyond the scope of the AP’s findings that Israel has emphatically denied. The journalist was wearing an outfit clearly labeling her as “PRESS” at the time of her death.
A letter published by Artists for Palestine UK and signed by 126 artists and celebrities, including Tilda Swinton, Mark Ruffalo and Peter Gabriel, is calling for “accountability” for Abu Akleh’s death.
Last weekend in Jenin, during a raid on the same West Bank refugee camp where Abu Akleh was killed, Israeli forces also shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian who had been wearing Hamas and Islamic Jihad clothing. The IDF said in a statement that it was returning gunfire after violence had broken out.