PA: International groups can help investigate journalist’s death, not Israel
The Palestinian Authority said on Saturday it would welcome the participation of international organizations in an investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, but Israel would still not be allowed to join its investigation.
“We welcome the participation of all international bodies in the investigation into the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh, by communicating with the specialized Palestinian prosecutor’s office, which published its initial report yesterday,” said the head of civil affairs of the the Palestinian Authority, Hussein al-Sheikh, on Twitter.
There were no further details on the extent of participation that would be permitted by international organizations.
Al-Sheikh said the scenes of violence at Abu Akleh’s funeral on Friday had reinforced Palestinian officials’ belief that there should not be a joint investigation with Israel.
“What happened to [Abu Akleh’s] Yesterday’s funeral by the occupying forces reinforces our position rejecting Israel’s participation in this investigation,” Al-Sheikh tweeted.
Scenes of Israeli police rushing attendees to Abu Akleh’s funeral, using force against Palestinians carrying his coffin past a Jerusalem hospital and nearly knocking him down, drew widespread condemnation on Friday.
Abu Akleh, 51, was shot and killed on Wednesday morning while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.
While Israel has called for a joint investigation into the journalist’s death, the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected the request.
The White House called for an “immediate and thorough” investigation into the death of Abu Akleh, who held US citizenship, while the UN Security Council said on Friday it strongly condemned the killing and called to “an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation, and a fair and impartial investigation.
Israel told the United States it could not definitively determine who fired the shot that killed Abu Akleh without examining the bullet removed from his neck, according to an Israeli television report Friday.
Channel 12 reported that the United States had asked Israel for clarification on the ongoing investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. Israel reportedly responded by asking the United States to help it with the matter, including obtaining the ball from the Palestinian Authority for analysis.
The Israel Defense Forces said earlier Friday that the Palestinians had rejected offers asking them to attend and participate in the investigation alongside a US representative.
An interim report released by the IDF earlier on Friday laid out two likely scenarios regarding who fired the fatal shot – a case of Palestinian terrorist fire and Israeli sniper fire – in neither case was Abu Akleh deliberately targeted.
In the case of the Israeli sniper fire, the military said the investigation involved a soldier who used a gun with a telescopic sight to return fire to a shooter through a gap in the armored vehicle in which he was.
“The shooter fired several bursts at the IDF soldier and it is possible that the journalist was hit by the soldier’s fire towards [him]an IDF statement said.
According to Channel 12 news, IDF chief Aviv Kohavi held a closed-door meeting with several generals on Thursday – ahead of the release of the interim investigative report – during which the possibility that Abu Akleh was hit by a Israeli bullet was discussed.
Two sources familiar with the discussion say that possibility has been defined as “very likely”, the network reported.
According to the report, some of those attending the meeting considered it no less likely and perhaps more likely that she had been hit by a stray IDF bullet than by indiscriminate Palestinian fire.
Kohavi reportedly said these were premature and speculative assessments – and ordered more expert input and reconstruction of events. During an operation in the Jenin area on Friday morning, troops also went to the scene where Abu Akleh was killed, in an attempt to reconstruct the events.
The IDF chief also said at Thursday’s meeting that we “certainly believe it is possible” that she was hit by IDF fire, but added that examination of the bullet removed from her neck ‘Abou Akleh would provide definitive answers, according to the TV report.
An IDF spokesman told Channel 12 in response that it could not currently definitively determine the circumstances of the journalist’s death, and that the military would continue its investigation and was committed to finding the truth.
Palestinian prosecutors said Friday that, according to their initial investigation, only IDF troops could have fired the bullet that killed Abu Akleh.
Palestinian investigators had found new evidence and marks on a tree at the scene of his death, and determined that IDF troops were 150 meters (492 feet) away at the time of the incident, they said.
The bullet has been transferred to a forensic laboratory, which will issue a detailed report on the matter, according to reports.
The release of the interim findings came as Abu Akleh’s funeral was taking place in Jerusalem. Israeli police rushed mourners and beat them with batons during the funeral, sparking global outrage. Police said officers responded after “rioters” seized the coffin of Abu Akleh’s family, and protesters threw glass bottles and other objects at police.
However, in an interview with the BBC on Friday, Abu Akleh’s brother Tony appeared to deny the Israeli police’s version of events, saying the family and mourners had hoped to hold a “small procession” but had been “bombarded” by officers as they left the hospital. He did not specify whether the planned motorcade was on foot or by car.
The death of Abu Akleh, who covered the Middle East conflict for more than 25 years, has drawn international condemnation.
Qatari channel Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing her and promised to take legal action. Journalists accompanying him said there were no Palestinian gunmen in the area.
Abu Akleh’s death came during a raid on Jenin, which has become the focus of Israel’s attempts to suppress terrorism emanating from the West Bank.
Nineteen people have been killed in Palestinian attacks in recent weeks, including several terrorists from Jenin and surrounding areas. IDF activity has killed more than 30 Palestinians – most, but not all, of them were involved in attacks or clashes with Israeli forces.