The family of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has said “we are incredulous” after the US State Department said that Israeli gunfire was “likely responsible” for her death – and that forensic analysis “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet”.
The bullet, which was handed to the Americans by the Palestinian Authority over the weekend, was badly damaged, thereby preventing “a clear conclusion”.
A statement released by the US State Department on Monday afternoon said Israeli soldiers were probably to blame, although they found no reason to conclude her killing was intentional.
“After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the US Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion,” it read.
“In addition to the forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC was granted full access to both Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian Authority investigations over the last several weeks. By summarizing both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.”
In a statement posted on Twitter, Ms Abu Akleh’s family said they would “continue to call for justice and accountability”, adding: “The focus on the bullet has always been misplaced and was an attempt by the Israeli side to spin the narrative in its favor.”
The family added that “the notion that the American investigators believe the bullet “likely came from Israeli positions” is cold comfort”.
The conclusions come just over a week before US President Joe Biden is due to land in Israel for his first visit to the Middle East since entering the White House.
Ms Abu Akleh, a Palestinian journalist with US citizenship, was killed whilst reporting from the West Bank town of Jenin in May – she was wearing a flak jacket and ballistic helmet clearly marked “Press”.
Hours after her death, the Israeli government strongly rebutted any suggestion IDF forces were to blame, but investigations by a number of international news organisations, including Sky News, and witness statements from the scene, suggested Israeli forces might be to blame.
In recent weeks, Israeli forces started to concede one of their soldiers could be to blame but refused to carry out a criminal investigation.
Days after the killing, Israeli police beat pallbearers at Ms Abu Akleh’s funeral in Jerusalem in scenes broadcast around the world.
Ms Abu Akleh is not the first journalist to be killed by Israeli forces – the Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders claims that more than 30 journalists, including one Briton, have been killed by the IDF since 2000.