Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was probably mistakenly killed by IDF fire during a counterterrorism operation in the Jenin Refugee Camp on May 11, the IDF announced Monday after it concluded an extensive inquiry into the incident.
An IDF spokesman stated that after the series of investigations carried out by a dedicated team, “it appears that it is not possible to determine unequivocally by whom Shirin Abu-Akleh was shot, but it is more likely that she was accidentally hit by IDF fire, which was fired at those identified as Palestinian terrorists, and this during a battle during which massive, indiscriminate and life-threatening shots were fired at IDF soldiers.”
“Along with this, it will be emphasized and made clear that throughout the incident, the fire of the IDF soldiers was aimed and intended to hit the terrorists who fired on our forces. Another possibility that remains is that Abu-Akleh was hit by gunfire from Palestinian terrorists,” the IDF noted.
Since Abu Akleh’s death, the IDF has thoroughly investigated the circumstances of her death. As part of the investigation, the IDF force that was involved was questioned, and in addition, it conducted a chronological analysis of the course of events, a real-time audio analysis, a detailed analysis of the scene of the incident, and a detailed simulation of the area.
In addition, various forensic and ballistic findings from the scene were examined. The investigators also examined additional information published about the event, including information presented by international media, including video and audio documentation.
After repeated pleas from Israel, the bullet that supposedly killed Abu Akleh was transferred by the Palestinian Authority for inspection. On July 2, a ballistics test of the bullet was conducted in a forensic laboratory, by Israeli officials, and American representatives.
The examination determined that in light of the physical condition of the bullet and the markings on it, there is a real difficulty in drawing conclusions. Therefore, even after this test, it was not possible to determine whether or not the bullet was fired from an IDF weapon.
The procedures for opening fire during the operation and how they were applied were also examined, and “no abnormality was found.”
“According to all the investigations carried out, it appears that it is not possible to determine unequivocally by whom Shirin Abu-Akleh was killed, but it is more likely that Shirin was accidentally hit by IDF fire, which was fired at those identified as Palestinian terrorists, during a heavy battle,” the IDF concluded.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi accepted the findings of the investigation, and concluded that the investigation carried out was “thorough and comprehensive, and that the investigation team turned every stone in order to arrive at the truth.” He further stated that “there was no deliberate shooting by IDF troops in a manner intended to harm the journalist.”
Upon completion of the investigation, all test materials were transferred to the Military Prosecutor’s Office for examination. A detailed analysis of the collected findings was presented to the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office, and clarification questions addressed to the investigation team were answered. After an overall examination of the incident, and based on all the findings, the Chief Military Prosecutor found that under the circumstances of the case, there is no suspicion of committing a criminal offense that warrants opening a military police investigation.
“Although there is a high probability that Abu-Akelh was shot by IDF soldiers, the circumstances of the shooting, as emerged from the investigation and the other findings collected, do not establish suspicion of committing a crime, which would justify the opening of a criminal investigation,” it stated.
“The IDF expresses sorrow over the death of the journalist. The freedom of the press and maintaining the safety of journalists are among the cornerstones of Israeli democracy and the IDF is committed to them,” the military stated.
Kochavi concluded that Abu-Akleh’s death is “a regrettable event. The incident took place during an operational activity to thwart Palestinian terrorism, which seeks to harm the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Abu Akleh, who “stayed at the scene, was threatened in the midst of a fight that lasted nearly an hour. As part of the fighting, the Palestinian terrorists fired heavy fire that endangered the IDF soldiers, including indiscriminate fire in all directions. The IDF operates in the most complex places in Judea and Samaria every day and demonstrates a very high level of professional performance and values, while avoiding harm to those not involved. The IDF invests great efforts in this, and in the process works to enable press coverage and freedom of the press.”
In contrast, “the Palestinian terrorists hide within the population, and often operate under the auspices of the Palestinian population and regularly endanger it. This is a challenge for the IDF forces, but it is our professional and moral duty to attack terrorism and thwart it anywhere, and it is our duty to fulfill our mission – defense of the State of Israel and its citizens.”