Shireen Abu Akleh probably killed by soldier, Israeli military report finds

Military's senior legal officer will not launch a criminal investigation into the shooting

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An Israeli soldier probably killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh with errant fire, an Israeli military report has found.

A senior military official said on Monday that its senior legal officer would not open a criminal investigation into her death.

"There is a high possibility that Ms Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF [Israel Defence Forces] gunfire that was fired towards suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen," AFP quoted the army's final report into her May 11 death as saying.

The Israeli military findings echo conclusions reached by the UN Human Rights Office in June.

UN spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said the shots that killed Abu Akleh and wounded her colleague, Ali Sammoudi, came from Israeli security forces "and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities”.

Palestinian officials have also blamed Israel for the killing. Israel initially said Abu Akleh might have been killed by militant fire, but later said a soldier might have shot her by mistake during an exchange of fire.

The Israeli official said the military could not conclusively determine from where the shots were fired, saying there might have been Palestinian gunmen in the same area as the Israeli soldier.

But he said there was a "very high likelihood" a soldier killed the journalist by mistake.

"He's sorry about it and I'm sorry about it too," the officer said of the soldier who shot in the direction of Abu Akleh.

"He didn't do it on purpose, it's totally clear."

The official did not explain why witness accounts and videos showed limited militant activity in the area, and no gunfire until the shots that hit Abu Akleh.

The UN investigation concluded there was "no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by" when Abu Akleh was shot.

Her sister Lina said Israel refused to take responsibility for the killing.

"We could never expect any type of accountability or legitimate investigation from the very entity responsible for gunning down an unarmed and clearly identifiable journalist," she said on Twitter as she shared a statement from the family.

The family met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in July, telling him they would not stop campaigning until the US opened an independent investigation into Abu Akleh's death.

"We continue to call on the many members of Congress, civil society organisations, journalists and the public to keep the pressure on President [Joe] Biden and Secretary Blinken to follow through with meaningful action," the family statement released on Monday read.

The group is also pushing for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.

"Israel's killing of our dear Shireen cannot be swept aside. No other family should have to endure what our family has had to," her family said.

On Monday evening, Ned Price, the US State Department spokesman, said: "We welcome Israel’s review of this tragic incident, and again underscore the importance of accountability in this case, such as policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future."

AP and AFP contributed to this report

Updated: September 05, 2022, 10:51 PM