Israel must complete a full and transparent investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing
After insisting for months it was impossible to determine the origin of the shot that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the Israeli army has now admitted it is "highly probable" that an Israeli soldier shot her “accidentally.” Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Israeli authorities to complete their investigation and reveal the exact circumstances of Abu Akleh’s death.
“The Israeli authorities continue to obscure the truth with vague justifications and hypotheses, rather than clearly admitting what other investigations have so far concluded – that the Israel Defence Forces killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” RSF’s Middle East desk said. “Nearly four months have elapsed since her death, and they have yet to shed light on this crime.
“There is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire,” the IDF said in a statement on September 5. But impunity continues to prevail with the military advocate general’s office saying in a separate statement: “There was no suspicion of a criminal offence that warrants the opening of [a criminal] investigation.”
On September 7, the Israeli Prime Minister said he was opposed to prosecuting the soldier who shot the journalist.
At a military ceremony, he declared:
"I will not allow the prosecution of a soldier who was protecting himself from terrorist shots, just to get congratulations from abroad.
Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and a bulletproof vest with the word “Press”, when she was killed by a shot to the head while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin on 11 May.
Al Jazeera, her family, and the Palestinian Authority in Jenin have all accused Israel of intentionally killing her, as several investigations – by the UN, the New York Times, CNN and others – have concluded that an Israeli soldier likely fired the fatal shot. Despite all these findings, the Israeli authorities have kept on insisting that it was impossible to “unequivocally determine” the source of the gunfire that killed her. Despite changing track on Monday, they continue to deny their responsibility.
In response to this latest IDF statement, Abu Akleh’s family tweeted yesterday that they were pressing for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation and trial:
“We've known for over four months now that an Israeli soldier shot and killed Shireen as countless investigations [...] have concluded. And yet, as expected, Israel has refused to take responsibility for murdering Shireen.”
“This elusive admission is nothing but an attempt from the [Israeli Occupation Forces] to evade the criminal responsibility for the killing of Shireen.
Another journalist killed, three arrested
Abu Akleh’s murder investigation takes place in an environment that is becoming more hostile for Palestinian journalists.
On the morning of September 5, the same day of the Israeli army’s announcement, Nadal Ijbariya, 44, was found dead in his car in Al-Kina, a neighbourhood in the West Bank town of Umm al-Fahm, after being shot by unknown assailants.
The founder and editor of the local news website Baladna, Ijbariya had received death threats in the past and, on June 2021, posted photos on Facebook and Instagram showing that a hail of shots had been fired at his home. He is the latest victim of a wave of violent attacks within Arab communities in the West Bank.
Palestinian journalist Lama Ghosheh was arrested by Israeli police at her home in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah on September 4. Witnesses said the police ransacked her home before taking her away.
Two Palestinian journalists, Muhammad Ateek and Mujahid Al-Saadi, were arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank on September 3. The Journalist Support Committee (JSC), a local NGO, responded with a statement calling on the authorities to stop arresting journalists without justification and “to respect freedoms so that journalists and media personnel can report the news and show the occupation’s violations against our Palestinian people in the West Bank.”
Al-Saadi was released within a few hours of his arrest.