The Israeli military is increasingly accepting the possibility that one of its soldiers killed veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, with reports emerging that Israel is investigating the likelihood that one of its soldiers shot her during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
The Palestinian-American Abu Akleh was in Jenin on Wednesday reporting on the raid when she was killed by Israeli forces, according to Al Jazeera, as well as multiple witnesses at the scene, who said that there was no confrontation with Palestinian fighters at the time of the shooting.
The admission that an Israeli soldier could be responsible is evidence that the Israelis are backtracking from their initial position that it was likely that Palestinian fighters in Jenin killed Abu Akleh.
A video widely disseminated by the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, which showed Palestinians firing in Jenin has now been proven to have not been filmed in Abu Akleh’s vicinity when she was killed.
Israel is conducting an investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing, Israeli army sources told the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post newspapers.
According to the Washington Post, a senior Israeli army official on Thursday said that the military was investigating three separate incidents involving its soldiers during the time of Abu Akleh’s killing.
“A soldier with a rifle and a very good aiming system was shooting towards a terrorist with an M16, in very good condition, very clear picture, that was shooting on our troops. What we are checking now is the location of Shireen,” the official told the Washington Post, adding that “this was the most probable [scenario] to be involved in the death of Shireen”.
The official also said that military investigators had taken rifles from Israeli soldiers involved in the fighting to make them available for ballistic testing.
Meanwhile, a senior Israeli military official also told the Wall Street Journal that the army was investigating one incident in which there was a possibility of an Israeli soldier’s bullet being responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing.
The official “acknowledged a bullet could have deflected off the ground or a wall and struck Ms. Abu Akleh”, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Journalists who were with Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said Israeli forces fired upon them even though they were clearly identifiable as reporters.
Israel is also calling for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers parts of the West Bank and cooperates with it on security.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas angrily rejected that proposal, saying “we hold the Israeli occupation authorities fully responsible for killing her”.
“They cannot hide the truth with this crime,” Abbas said in an address as her body lay in state with a Palestinian flag draped over it in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority has its headquarters.
“They are the ones who committed the crime, and because we do not trust them, we will immediately go to the International Criminal Court,” Abbas said.
The European Union has urged an “independent” probe while the United States demanded the killing be “transparently investigated”, calls echoed by United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said that Abu Akleh had been “assassinated in cold blood” and called on the international community to hold Israeli forces responsible.
Aside from Abu Akleh, another Al Jazeera journalist, Ali al-Samoudi, was also wounded by a bullet to the back at the scene. He is now in a stable condition.
Abu Akleh is to be laid to rest on Friday in her hometown of Jerusalem, after her body was carried in a procession from Jenin to Jerusalem, via Nablus and Ramallah, over the three days since Wednesday.