image Photo: Flash90, Reuters

PA refers journalist death case to ICC

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced that the death of Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation.

By Erin Viner

‘We have documented [the crime] and submitted a file about it to the ICC prosecutor” for an independent and impartial probe into the killing,” Ramallah’s top diplomat said while speaking to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. He added that other alleged crimes were also submitted in an effort to prompt official investigations and “bring Israel to accountability.”

Abu Akleh, 51, was covering an arrest operation launched by the IDF amid a deadly wave of Arab terrorist attacks in Israel.  She was fatally shot on 11 May under disputed circumstances while covering a gunfight between Palestinian gunmen and IDF forces in the terrorist hotbed West Bank city of Jenin.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) refused Israel’s offer to conduct a dual investigation to determine culpability for her death and denied Jerusalem the opportunity to conduct joint forensic examination of her body or the bullet that killed her.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of assassinating Abu Akleh, and demanded an international response from the Hague.

“Why are they rejecting a joint investigation? What exactly are they trying to hide?” queried Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in a statement addressing the PA’s refusal to conduct a joint investigation.

Al Jazeera also reported its veteran reporter had been “assassinated in cold blood” in a “war crime” committed by Israeli forces. While speaking to the Qatar-based network, Palestinian National Initiative General Secretary Mustafa Barghouti called for the imposition of “real pressure” including “sanctions and punitive acts” against Israel.

Israeli Defense Ministry Benny Gantz commented that taking the case to the ICC would hurt ties between Jerusalem and Ramallah. The top defense official has long supported the bolstering of relations with the PA, and has held several discussions with Abbas.

Israeli leaders have denied that Abu Akleh was deliberately targeted but insist that without evidence being withheld by the PA it is impossible to establish whether she may have been accidentally shot by a soldier or a Palestinian gunman during the firefight.

IDF Military Advocate General, Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, said that, “Given that Ms. Abu Akleh was killed in the midst of an active combat zone, there can be no immediate suspicion of criminal activity absent further evidence.”

While addressing the annual conference of the Israel Bar Association, she stressed that “the best way to determine how the journalist died is to check the bullet that was found in her body through a professional ballistic investigation,” and “the inability to inspect the bullet, which is being held by the Palestinian Authority, continues to cast doubt on the circumstances of Ms Abu Akleh’s death.”

The IDF has documented the shooting of hundreds of rounds by dozens of Palestinian gunmen from multiple locations during the firefight in Jenin, underscored Gen. Tomer-Yerushalmi.

A video released by Palestinians in Jenin at the time of the incident at the time of the incident in which they are heard boasting after firing into an alley, “We hit a soldier.” (Click here to see the video).  The IDF said that because no Israeli troops were injured that day, the gunmen might have been referring to Abu Akleh, who was wearing a protective helmet and flak jacket.

In an attempt at maintaining complete transparency, an Israeli military official announced last week that a rifle that may have fired the shot that killed Abu Akleh has been located but that the fatal bullet is still needed for confirmation.

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price has already addressed Israel’s credibility to conduct an impartial probe. “Clearly, Israeli authorities have the wherewithal to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation,” he said at a press conference.