A senior Israeli official confirmed the existence of an American investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Okla, but said that the Israeli government would not cooperate with the American investigation, describing it as a “mistake.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed the details of the Justice Ministry’s investigation into the killing of an Al Jazeera reporter, who was shot dead during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin in May.
I have sent a message to the representatives of the United States that we stand ready [Israeli] Soldiers, that we will not cooperate with an external investigation, and will not allow interference in internal investigations,” Gantz tweeted Monday.
A CNN investigation, published two weeks after Abu Akleh was killed, indicated that the fatal bullet likely came from a location where IDF forces are known to have been, and the firing pattern indicates that the bullets were targeted rather than random, as it is from the narrow gathering for rounds, according to a firearms expert who evaluated video footage for CNN.
The Israeli military admitted in September that there was a “high probability” that one of its soldiers had shot the journalist, but said it was impossible to be certain. The IDF’s attorney general said it would not press charges against any soldier and that “there is no doubt that a shot was deliberately fired at any person identified as a civilian and in particular at any person identified as a journalist.”
Abu Okla was wearing a windbreaker that had “press” written on it on the front and back at the time of her death. While an IDF official said earlier that Israeli soldiers believed Palestinian militants were shooting at them, a CNN investigation found that there was no active fighting, nor any Palestinian militants, near Abu Akleh in the moments before her death.
On Monday, Gantz said the IDF had conducted a “professional and independent” investigation and briefed US officials on the details. “The US Department of Justice’s decision to conduct an investigation into the tragic death of Shireen Abu Okla was a mistake,” he added on Twitter.
Israeli media had previously reported that US officials had told their Israeli counterparts that they might request materials related to the journalist’s death.
The US Department of Justice and the US State Department declined to comment Monday on the US investigation, but the latter said “Our thoughts remain with the Abu Akleh family as they mourn this heavy loss. Not only was Shireen a US citizen, but also a courageous reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned respect for her.” audiences all over the world.”
A US State Department-led forensic examination of the bullet that killed Abu Okla in July was inconclusive, but found that it was most likely killed by unintended Israeli fire.
Abu Akleh’s family has long called on the FBI to investigate her death – something the department does regularly with Americans killed abroad.
Her family said in a statement that news of the US investigation had “encouraged them”. “We hope that the United States will use all investigative tools available to it to obtain answers about the killing of Shirin and hold those responsible for these atrocities to account,” the Abu Okla family said.
“We call on all parties that have any evidence to respond to investigation requests from the United States… and not stand in the way of justice.”