A Palestinian Authority investigation has found an Israeli soldier shot Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in a targeted killing in Jenin on May 11, the group's attorney general said on Thursday.
The findings echoed the results of a preliminary investigation announced nearly two weeks ago and were widely expected. Israel rejected the findings, with its military chief saying: “No soldier fired intentionally at a journalist.”
Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American reporter for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service, was shot in the head on May 11 during an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Witnesses and Palestinian officials have said she was hit by Israeli fire while Israel says she was shot during a battle between soldiers and Palestinian militants. It says that only a ballistic analysis of the bullet — which is held by the Palestinian Authority — and the soldiers’ guns can determine who fired the fatal shot.
The bullet that killed Abu Akleh is a 5.56mm round with a steel component used by Nato forces, he said and added that the Palestinian Authority will not hand the bullet over to Israel.
Announcing the results of his probe at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Attorney General Akram Al Khateeb said he had determined there were no militants in the immediate area where Abu Akleh was located.
“The only shooting was by the occupation forces, with the aim of killing,” he said.
In a statement, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz called that conclusion “a blatant lie”.
Abu Akleh was in a group of journalists wearing helmets and protective vests marked “press”.
Mr Al Khateeb accused Israel of shooting Abu Akleh “directly and deliberately” as she tried to escape.
He also repeated the Palestinian position that the bullet will not be handed over to the Israelis for study and that it had been decided not even to show images of the bullet “to deprive [Israel] of a new lie.”
Mr Al Khateeb said his investigation was based on interviews with witnesses, an inspection of the scene and a forensic medical report.
In a speech later on Thursday, Lt Gen Aviv Kohavi said it was impossible to know who fired the bullet and once again called on the Palestinians to co-operate to “get to the bottom” of what happened.
“But there is one thing that can be determined with certainty,” the military chief said. “No soldier fired intentionally at a journalist. We investigated that. We checked it. That is the conclusion. There is no other.”
Israel denies attacking the journalists and has offered two possible scenarios, saying Abu Akleh was either shot by Palestinian militants who were firing recklessly at an Israeli army convoy or that she was hit by Israeli gunfire aimed at a nearby militant.
The military has identified the rifle that may have been used in the latter scenario, but says it needs to test the bullet to make any final determination.
Al Jazeera said on Thursday it will refer the killing to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.