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New Findings Give Inconclusive Answer About Who Shot Palestinian-American Journalist

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JERUSALEM, Israel – Initial findings about the death of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin have failed to determine who shot her.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known correspondent for Al-Jazeera, was shot dead Wednesday morning while covering an Israeli counterterrorism raid in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria. The circumstances around Abu Akleh’s death are unclear. Video online shows the bloody and unconscious correspondent wearing a vest clearly marked with the word “PRESS.” 

Al-Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority said Israeli troops killed Abu Akleh despite her being clearly identified as a journalist. Israeli leaders suggested that Abu Akleh was inadvertently shot by Palestinians indiscriminately firing at Israeli troops and Israel’s Foreign Ministry posted a video they say supports that claim.      

An initial autopsy of Abu Akleh’s body by Palestinian coroners found that it was “not possible” to determine yet if she was killed by Israelis or Palestinians.

“The bullet that entered her body is in our possession and has been taken to the lab for further analysis,” said coroner, Dr. Ryan al-Ali of the Pathological Institute at the a-Najah University in Nablus.

The coroner also couldn’t determine the exact distance from which the bullet was shot.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the bullet is a 5.56×45mm NATO round, which is used by both Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists.

An initial investigation by Israel's military found that Israeli troops did not fire at Abu Akleh. The troops involved in the operation said they did not see the journalist or open fire on her.

However, Israeli military chief Aviv Kohavi later said it “is not possible to determine whose gunfire she was hit by and we are sorry for her death,” despite earlier remarks from Israeli officials that Abu Akleh was “likely” killed by Palestinians.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also confirmed that Israel is "not certain how she was killed.”

“We are now in a full investigation process, and I hope to come to a conclusion, because currently our initial findings from the investigation cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen and I cannot exclude any option under the operational chaos that was on the ground,” Gantz told foreign media during a press briefing.

He also called on Palestinian leaders to cooperate in a pathological investigation to determine the direct cause of Abu Akleh’s death.

However, the Palestinian Authority refused a joint investigation and said on Thursday it will not transfer the bullet that killed Abu Akleh to Israel for further analysis.

“Israel requested a joint investigation and the handing over of the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen, and we refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently, and we will inform her family, America, Qatar and all official authorities of the results of the investigation,” Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh said on Twitter.

The official claimed that “all indications, evidence and witnesses confirm her assassination by Israeli special units.”

Abu Akleh’s death sparked international condemnation and calls for a transparent investigation. 

"We are heartbroken by and strongly condemn the killing of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. The investigation must be immediate and thorough and those responsible must be held accountable. Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere," said State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Abu Akleh’s death comes amid near-daily raids in the West Bank by Israeli forces to combat a recent terror wave that has killed 19 Israelis.

Israelis are concerned that Abu Akleh’s killing will inspire Palestinian revenge attacks.

According to Israeli police, a Palestinian man lunged at officers in Jerusalem’s Old City before being shot dead by police hours after Abu Akleh’s death. Israeli authorities later confirmed the man was unarmed.

Meanwhile, rioters threw rocks at police and blocked roads in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina Wednesday night in protest of Abu Akleh’s death.

In a briefing with foreign journalists, Defense Minster Gantz said her killing won’t stop Israel from carrying out counterterrorism raids in the West Bank.

“We will continue to act against the terrorists, and at the same time we will continue to do everything possible to separate them from the population, because these are our values and it is also in our interest if we want to maintain stability,” he said.

Abu Akleh, who was born to a Christian family, will be buried in Jerusalem on Friday at the Christian Mount Zion Cemetery. She was 51.

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About The Author


Emily Jones is a multi-media journalist for CBN News in Jerusalem. Before she moved to the Middle East in 2019, she spent years regularly traveling to the region to study the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meet with government officials, and raise awareness about Christian persecution. During her college years, Emily served as president of Regent University's Christians United for Israel chapter and spoke alongside world leaders at numerous conferences and events. She is an active member of the Philos Project, an organization that seeks to promote positive Christian engagement with the Middle