Palestinians hand over bullet that killed Al Jazeera reporter to US forensic experts
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Palestinian Authority said Saturday it had given the bullet that killed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh to U.S. forensic experts, taking a step toward resolving a standoff with Israel about the investigation into his death.
The announcement came just over a week before President Joe Biden is due to travel to Israel and the occupied West Bank for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He signaled that the two sides could work to find a solution to the impasse.
Abu Akleh, a veteran correspondent well known in the Arab world, was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military raid on May 11 in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
READ MORE: Israeli soldier likely killed Al Jazeera reporter, no conclusive answer
The Palestinians, as well as Abu Akleh’s colleagues who were with her at the time, say she was killed by Israeli fire. The Israeli army says she was caught in the crossfire during a battle with Palestinian gunmen, and it is impossible to determine which side killed her without analyzing the bullet.
Israel says it has identified the gun that may have fired at it, but cannot draw any conclusions unless it is compared to the bullet. The Palestinians refused to return the ball, saying they did not trust Israel. Rights groups say Israel has a poor record of investigating Palestinian shootings by its troops, with investigations languishing for months or years before being quietly closed.
Palestinian Attorney General Akram al-Khateeb said the bullet had been given to American experts “for technical work”.
READ MORE: Veteran Al Jazeera journalist shot dead by Israeli forces, say reporters on site
He reiterated the Palestinian refusal to share the ball with the Israelis, but said the Palestinians welcomed the involvement of any international body to “help us confirm the truth”.
“We are confident and certain of our investigations and the results that we have reached,” he said.
It was not immediately clear what US experts might uncover without also studying the Israeli weapon. It was also unclear whether Israel would hand over the rifle to the Americans. The Israeli military declined to comment, and the US embassy’s Palestinian affairs office said it had “no new information to offer”.
A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a diplomatic matter, said the issue arose during a phone call between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and that both sides hoped to resolve the issue before Biden arrives on July 13.
An AP reconstruction of events has supported eyewitnesses who say she was shot by Israeli troops. But a weapons expert interviewed by the AP as part of the reconstruction said it was impossible to reach a conclusive conclusion without further forensic analysis. Israeli leaders have repeatedly said that the soldiers did not intentionally target her.
READ MORE: Israel to investigate police conduct after pallbearers beaten at journalist’s funeral
Abu Akleh, 51, was a widely known and respected on-air correspondent who rose to fame two decades ago during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israeli rule. She documented the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule – now well into its sixth decade with no end in sight – for viewers in the Arab world.
Israeli police drew widespread criticism from around the world when they beat mourners and pallbearers at their funeral in Jerusalem on May 14. not be seriously punished.
Jenin has long been a stronghold of Palestinian militants, and several recent attacks inside Israel have been carried out by young men from the city and surrounding areas. Israel carries out frequent military raids in Jenin, which it says are aimed at arresting militants and preventing further attacks.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and built settlements where nearly 500,000 Israelis live alongside nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians want the territory to form the main part of a future state. Peace talks broke down more than a decade ago, and with Israel now in a new election campaign, they are unlikely to resume any time soon. Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid backs a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but right-wing parties that oppose Palestinian statehood look set to dominate the election.
Associated Press writer Fares Akram of Gaza City, Gaza Strip contributed to this report.