Israel concluded Monday that there is a “high possibility,” that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was “accidentally” hit by IDF gunfire during an exchange of fire with armed Palestinian gunmen.
At the same time, the IDF said in a long awaited report that the origin of the fire that led to the death of Abu Akleh could not be determined “unequivocally.”
Israel’s Military Advocate General concluded there is “no suspicion” of a criminal offense and no military police or criminal investigation will be opened, the IDF said.
“It is important to emphasize and clarify that throughout the entire incident, IDF gunfire was fired with the intent of neutralizing the terrorists who shot at IDF soldiers, also from the area in which Abu Akleh was present,” the IDF said in a statement. “Another possibility which remains relevant is that Abu Akleh was hit by bullets fired by armed Palestinian gunmen.”
The IDF added that during the exchange of fire, which led to the death of the Palestinian-American journalist in Jenin,in the West Bank on May 11, “life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers (…) that lasted for almost an hour.”
“The Palestinian gunmen also hurled explosives at the soldiers and IDF military vehicles,” according to the report. “Near the end of the activity, the journalist Abu Akleh was hit.”
After receiving the findings, the Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi concluded that the investigation held was “thorough and comprehensive,” and the investigative task force “turned over every stone,” to reach its conclusions.
The IDF said the task force set up to investigate the incident questioned the soldiers involved in incident and put together a chronological analysis of the course of events. Additionally, forensic and ballistic findings from the scene were examined, as well as additional information published by foreign media organizations, including video and audio documentation.
Kohavi stated that “at no point was Abu Akleh identified and at no point was there any intentional gunfire carried out by IDF soldiers in a manner intended to harm the journalist.”
“The death of Abu Akleh is a devastating incident,” Kohavi added. “The IDF operates in immensely complex areas at a professional and high-quality level every night, while taking actions to avoid harming non-combatants. The IDF takes great efforts to this end, while working to allow press coverage and the freedom of the press.”
“The Palestinian terrorists hide and operate from within the Palestinian population, endangering their lives on an ongoing basis,” he continued. “This is an immense challenge for the IDF, but it is our professional and moral duty to stop and prevent terrorism, as well as achieving our goal – to defend Israeli civilians and the State of Israel.”
The 51-year-old journalist was fatally shot in Jenin, while covering IDF counter-terrorism operations that followed a deadly string of terror attacks in Israel which killed 19 Israelis.
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Author: Sharon Wrobel
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