Photo: Reuters

Israel rejects UN-reporter allegation

The United Nations Human Rights Office (UNHRC) released a report accusing Israel of responsibility for the death of Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during a firefight between Palestinian terrorists and IDF forces in the West Bank city Jenin on 11 May.

By Erin Viner

“All information we have gathered – including official information from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney-general – is consistent with the finding that the shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities,” declared the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani said at a briefing in Geneva.

While Shamdasani stopped short of using the work “investigation,” she said that the UN rights office had conducted its own “monitoring” of the incident.

Israeli and Palestinians officials have exchanged recriminations over the shooting death of Abu Akleh during an IDF raid in Jenin, a hotbed of terrorist activity; as well as subsequent violence that erupted during her funeral in Jerusalem on 13 May.

According to Shamdasani, “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired” at four journalists “from the direction of the Israeli Security Forces,” going on to comment that, “It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.”

The UNHRC statement is imbued with irony: as Israeli leaders have repeatedly requested the bullet recovered from Abu Akleh’s body be produced to determine culpability for her death during joint forensic analysis. The offer included the possibility that the examination would be conducted under observation by a representative of the United States, since the journalist was a dual American-Palestinian.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has so far resoundingly refused to provide access to the bullet.

Both Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) immediately refuted the UNHRC allegations.

‏“Once again I express my condolences following the death of journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh. Her loved ones deserve to know the truth behind her tragic death – and we may only uncover the truth by conducting a thorough ballistic, forensic investigation and not through unfounded investigations such as the one published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” said Gantz in a statement TV7 obtained from his Media and Foreign Affairs Advisor.

‏“The IDF operates day and night to thwart bloodthirsty terrorists who seek to conduct terror attacks and murder Israeli citizens” while simultaneously taking “all the possible measures to prevent harm to uninvolved civilians,” Minister Gantz, adding that counter to the UN inquiry, “IDF troops came under heavy gunfire during the events that lead to Shireen’s death, and responded accordingly.”

Jerusalem’s top defense official then repeated his call for the PA to deliver the bullet that hit Abu Akleh to Israel “in order to uncover the truth.”

“Where is the bullet? the Palestinian refusal to pass over the bullet and conduct a joint investigation is evidence of their position,” said a statement from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

So far, over 1,000 bullets have been recovered at the site of the clash, said the military, pointing to further evidence that Abu Akleh had been present during a major exchange of gunfire between Israeli security forces and Palestinian terrorists.

“Since the event, the IDF has been investigating the death of the journalist and found that there was no intentional attempt to target Abu Akleh and that there was no way to determine who fired the kill shot,” said the IDF, while emphasizing that the chance of reaching a definitive conclusion in the absence of a ballistic examination remains low.

“The IDF investigation clearly concludes that Ms. Abu Akleh was not intentionally shot by an IDF soldier and that it is not possible to determine whether she was killed by a Palestinian gunman shooting indiscriminately in her area or inadvertently by an IDF soldier,” said the Israeli military.

Previously, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a video filmed by Palestinians in Jenin at the time of the incident in which they are heard boasting: “We hit a soldier; he’s lying on the ground.” (Click here to see the video).

No IDF troops were injured during the mission, which “increases the possibility that Palestinian terrorists were the ones who shot the journalist,” Bennett insisted.

He added that IDF forces will continue counterterrorism operations to “end the deadly wave of terror and restore security to the citizens of Israel.”