Reviews | Israel leaves questions unanswered over US journalist’s death

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Months after investigations by international news and human rights organizations revealed that an Israeli soldier likely fired the shot that killed a popular Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh last spring, an Israeli military investigation came to the same conclusion – but also ruled out any criminal investigation or charges against his troops. This judgment leaves crucial questions unanswered.

First, the Israel Defense Forces has presented no evidence to support its claim that Abu Akleh’s killing was an accident or, as a senior Israeli official told reporters, “misidentification”. Second, the IDF questions its own conclusion by claiming that the shooting was aimed at Palestinian gunmen “in a firefight in which fatal, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired at IDF soldiers”. In fact, detailed investigations by The Post, The New York Times and other independent groups – based on videos, audio recordings and eyewitness accounts – suggest that no Palestinian gunmen were near Abu Dhabi. Akleh when she was shot in the back of the neck, or had any crossfire. happened there in the previous minutes.

The fact remains, however, that no evidence has emerged to suggest, as the Palestinian Authority has said, that Israeli forces involved in the May 11 incident targeted non-combatants or specifically Abu Akleh. , a household name in the Arab world based on his two decades of reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Al Jazeera. But the absence of such evidence does not justify the Israeli army’s decision to close the case. On the contrary, he draws attention to the paucity of investigative details made public.

No recordings or transcripts of an interview with an Israeli soldier have been released, nor any evidence of what a soldier saw, heard or believed when he opened fire on a group of civilians, including Abu Akleh, 51, whose protective gear identified them as journalists. The Israeli military also did not provide video, if any, of drones or body cameras that could shed light on the incident, despite requests from the Post.

The Israeli military’s conclusion marks an almost complete reversal of its initial insistence that Palestinian gunmen probably killed Abu Akleh. This is in line with a similar conclusion reached two months ago by the US State Department, which, coming from the most important ally of the Jewish state, lifted the pressure to bring criminal charges against an IDF soldier or soldiers.

Still, that shouldn’t be the final word on the incident in the West Bank city of Jenin, amid a military raid following weeks of Palestinian terror attacks that claimed the lives of 17 Israelis. A truly independent investigation is needed; Israel should invite the FBI to undertake one.

Combat correspondents routinely take risks in their reporting. This does not justify shrugging when one dies in wrongful circumstances, as in the murder of Abu Akleh. Israeli and international human rights groups have long reported instances in which Israeli soldiers and police evade accountability for their misdeeds. In this regard, it should be noted that no Israeli official was seriously punished for the chaos at Abu Akleh’s funeral in Jerusalem on May 13, when police beat Palestinian pallbearers carrying his coffin, almost causing them to to fall. This lapse of time, and the questions left unanswered by Israel’s conclusion about the death of a respected journalist, further underscore the need for an outside investigation.

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