The US says Israeli forces may have killed reporter Shireen Abu Akleh

The Biden administration said Monday that the Israeli military likely killed Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh — announcing the discovery just nine days before President Biden arrived in the Jewish state for a high-level visit.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Abu Akleh, 51, died likely as a result of Israeli gunfire while covering a May 11 military attack on a suspected Islamic Jihad site in Jenin, West Bank — Palestinians had claimed .

However, Price also said that forensic analysis of a bullet handed over by the Palestinian Authority was inconclusive.

“After conducting an extremely detailed forensic analysis, a process overseen by the United States Coordinator of Security (USSC) oversaw a process overseen by the United States Security Coordinator (USSC), independent third-party investigators were unable to reach a definitive conclusion as to the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistics experts determined that the bullet was badly damaged, preventing a firm conclusion,” Price said.

People light candles during a vigil in memory of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
People light candles during a vigil in memory of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

But Price said additional analysis puts the likely blame on Israel.

“In addition to forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC has been granted unrestricted access to investigations by both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) in recent weeks. By combining both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” Price said.

“The USSC found no reason to believe this was intentional, but the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against Palestinian Islamic Jihad factions on May 11, 2022 in Jenin, following a series of terrorist attacks in Israel .”

Abu Akleh was shot dead on May 11th.
Abu Akleh was shot dead on May 11, 2022.

It’s unclear how the attribution might affect US-Israel relations ahead of Biden’s visit, or how Palestinian activists will react to US berating Israel.

The president’s upcoming trip will be his most challenging international mission yet and he is expected to visit Bethlehem in the West Bank – the hometown of Abu Akleh’s father – before heading to Saudi Arabia to slash record gas prices.

Abu Akleh was wearing a blue bulletproof vest with “PRESS” written on it when she was shot in the head.

Biden, pictured above in 2016, will arrive in the Holy Land this week for a high-level visit.
Biden will arrive in the Holy Land this week for a high-level visit.
Getty Images

Al Jazeera producer Ali Samoudi told NPR shortly after the incident that Israeli soldiers allowed the TV crew to approach a house that was surrounded before three shots were fired – one of which hit Abu Akleh. He said he believed Israeli troops were responsible.

But then – the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said then “From the information we have gathered, it seems likely that armed Palestinians – who fired indiscriminately at the time – were responsible for the journalist’s unfortunate death.”

A photo from the crime scene shows Abu Akleh lying on the ground next to a shocked colleague. Both women wore helmets and vests marked PRESS.

Colleagues and friends react as Abu Akleh's body is taken to Al Jazeera's West Bank office.
Colleagues and friends react as Abu Akleh’s body is taken to Al Jazeera’s West Bank office.

Abu Akleh has worked for Al Jazeera since 1997. She was born in Jerusalem to a Palestinian Christian family and later obtained US citizenship while living with her family in New Jersey.

Israeli forces carried out the raid amid rising tensions between Palestinians and Israeli authorities, including clashes in Jerusalem and Palestinian acts of terrorism. Abu Akleh’s death further aggravated the situation – mourners and Israeli authorities clashed during her funeral procession, almost causing the journalist’s coffin to fall to the ground.

Biden has described his July 13-16 trip to the Middle East as an attempt to promote both regional peace and Israeli interests.

The President even claimed that the Saudi portion of the trip was not intended to help bring US gas prices to record levels, but to help Israel. In Saudi Arabia, Biden will seek reconciliation with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after previously trying to marginalize him over his alleged role in the 2018 assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

At a Thursday press conference in Madrid following last week’s NATO summit, Biden said he would “travel to Israel to meet with Israeli leaders to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States.”

Abu Akleh during one of her news reports from Jerusalem.
Abu Akleh during one of her news reports from Jerusalem.
AL JAZEERA/AFP via Getty Images

“And part of the purpose — the trip to the Middle East — is to deepen Israel’s integration in the region, which I think we can do and which is good — good for peace and good for Israeli security.” ‘ added the President. “And that’s why Israeli leaders have been so strongly in favor of me going to Saudi Arabia [Arabia].”

Biden took office after a series of pro-Israel actions by the Trump administration, including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and Syria’s recognition of Israel’s controversial annexation of the Golan Heights.

Former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner helped broker the Abraham Accords in 2020, which laid the groundwork for diplomatic ties between Israel and four Arab states. The US says Israeli forces may have killed reporter Shireen Abu Akleh


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