Neither Israelis nor Palestinians are pleased with the U.S. State Department’s conclusion about the shooting death of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh almost two months ago. Israeli forensic experts analyzed the bullet in the presence of American officials, who have since said the bullet was most likely fired by Israeli soldiers, but it was too damaged to make a conclusive determination.
Ever since Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, was shot and killed in the West Bank town of Jenin while Israeli soldiers were carrying out arrests of Palestinians wanted for terrorist attacks, Israel has urged Palestinian Authority officials to turn over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh. The Palestinians have refused, saying they do not believe that Israel can carry out an unbiased investigation.
But over the last few days, under American pressure, the Palestinians surrendered the bullet, and the U.S. supervised an Israeli forensics evaluation.
U.S. officials say the bullet was most likely fired by Israeli soldiers, though the bullet was too damaged to know definitively. Lior Nadivi, an Israeli forensics expert, said he has problems with the U.S. investigation’s conclusions.
“I can understand the first part that they could not have a match on the bullet, because from what I have seen from the previous media photos that were released, the bullet was not in a good condition,” he said. “I cannot understand the second half, in which they determined that the shot came from the Israeli side.”
Israel originally said it is possible the shots came from Palestinian gunmen in the area. But several investigations by the U.N., CNN, and The New York Times, concluded that there were no Palestinian gunmen in the area when Abu Akleh was shot.
Olivier Rakowicz, a former Israeli army spokesman, said the Palestinians made it impossible for Israel to carry out an investigation.
“From the very beginning after she was killed, it was impossible to get the elements of any investigation because one side, the Palestinian side, actually refused to cooperate with the Israeli side,” he said. “I would like to say we never said it is not us, it is them, like they say it. We said we need to have a full and transparent investigation to get all the elements in order to know what happened.”
At the same time, the Palestinians also rejected the American conclusions. Palestinian prosecutors released a statement saying they think the bullet can be traced to a specific gun and repeated the Palestinian claim that Abu Akleh was deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers.
Lina Abu Akleh, a relative of the slain journalist, said the family will continue to fight for justice.
The statements come just days before U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in the region.
Israeli analysts said U.S. officials had hoped the investigation of the bullet would help reach definitive conclusions in Abu Akleh’s death so it would not overshadow the visit. But they say Washington’s statement on the probe is unlikely to put the issue to rest.