Shireen Abu Akleh killed by Israeli shots, says U.N. rights body

Placeholder while article actions load

TEL AVIV — A veteran Palestinian American journalist was killed by Israeli forces while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday, summarizing the results of the office’s investigation into the fatal shooting in May of Shireen Abu Akleh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera.

Abu Akleh was not shot “indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities,” Ravin Shamdasani said in a statement.

A correspondent with decades of experience for Al Jazeera news network covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abu Akleh was fatally shot in the head early on the morning on May 11, while reporting on an Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Jenin. Witnesses said the fire appeared to come from a convoy of Israeli military vehicles, but Israeli officials said she was likely to be killed by a Palestinian gunfire, before reversing course initially and saying it was possible she unintentionally been shot by an Israeli soldier.

The UN conclusions — which included the finding that “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets” were fired at Abu Akleh and three other journalists from the direction of Israeli forces — mirrored the conclusions of several independent investigations, including a review by The Washington Post , which found that Israeli troops likely to be fired the fatal shot.

On Thursday, 24 US senators sent a letter to President Biden urging that the United States be “directly involved in investigating” Abu Akleh’s death. The letter, citing a lack of progress toward the establishment of an independent investigation — and the fact that Abu Akleh was an American — said the US government “has an obligation to ensure that a comprehensive, impartial, and open investigation into her shooting death is conducted.”

On the day Abu Akleh was killed, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Ran Kochav first announced the incident in a 7:45 am tweet, saying: “The journalist that journalists were injured, possibly by Palestinian gunfire, is being investigated.”

Later that morning, he told Army Radio that it was “likely” that a Palestinian gunman was responsible. By the end of the day, Defense Minister Benny Gantz walked back those assertions and said an Israeli soldier could have also been responsible for firing the fatal shot.

A week after the killing, however, the army said that it had not found evidence of criminal conduct in the killing and so there would be no military police probe.

“More than six weeks after the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and injury of her colleague Ali al-Samoudi in Jenin on 11 May 2022, it is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” the statement from the UN Human Rights Office said.

The Post’s examination — based on a review of five dozen videos, social media posts and photos of the event, two physical inspections of the area and two independent acoustic analyzes — found that an Israeli soldier likely shot and killed Abu Akleh. The audio analyzes of what was likely the fatal gunshots pointed to one person shooting from an estimated distance that nearly matched the span between the journalists and the IDF convoy.

The Post’s review found no evidence of activity of armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the place where Abu Akleh, and a group of other journalists, were standing before the killing.

“Perpetrators must be held to account,” said the UN statement.

Fahim reported from Istanbul.

Leave a Comment