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Israel says source of bullet that killed Palestinian journalist cannot be determined

American officials concur – but say the bullet likely came from an Israeli weapon

Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh (Photo: Twitter)

The gun that fired the bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh cannot be determined, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement today after a joint American-Israeli forensics investigation.

"The IDF investigation concluded that the source of the fire that led to the death of Ms. Abu Akleh could not be determined based on the available information," the IDF said adding, "The IDF investigation conclusively determined that no IDF soldier deliberately fired at Ms. Abu Akleh."

The American embassy concurred that the forensics were inconclusive, but added it was likely an Israeli soldier shot the fatal bullet.

“Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion,” the embassy said.

The Palestinian Authority turned over the bullet to the U.S. Embassy on Saturday, weeks after the May 11 death of the 51-year-old veteran reporter. Abu Akleh was Palestinian but also held American citizenship.

“By summarizing both investigations, the [U.S. Security Coordinator] concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances,” the embassy concluded.

In its statement, the IDF noted Israeli troops were in Jenin to conduct counterterrorism activities after a spate of terror attacks that left 19 people dead within Israel.

"During the IDF’s operational activity, Palestinian gunmen fired heavily and indiscriminately, including directly toward IDF soldiers. In addition, explosives were hurled and hit IDF vehicles and nearly hit soldiers," the IDF said. "Near the conclusion of the IDF’s counterterrorism activities in the area, the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was hit." 

The army has maintained that if an Israeli soldier fired the fatal bullet it was unintentional. Abu Akleh was shot in the head while wearing a helmet and a vest marked "Press."

"A ballistic examination was conducted in a forensic laboratory in Israel. Israeli experts examined the bullet in order to determine the connection between the bullet and the weapon from which it was fired. USSC representatives were present throughout the entire process," the IDF said.

"Despite these efforts, the physical condition of the bullet and the quality of the characteristics on it do not enable a ballistic examination to conclusively determine whether or not the bullet was fired from the weapon which was examined."

The bullet was returned to the Palestinian Authority afterwards.

IDF Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi said the investigation will continue "using all available means."

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed his condolences to Abu Akleh's family and said the investigation will continue.

"In this specific case, despite the forensic investigation, it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion," he said. "Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine the source of the shooting – and as such, the investigation will continue." 

But he also added that in cases like this, "the first to bear responsibility ... are the terrorists who operate from within population centers."

"It is important to emphasize that during this operational event, like in many others, hundreds of bullets were fired at IDF troops, which responded with firepower of their own, only in the direction of the sources of the shooting," Gantz said.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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