Israel Says Its Military Probably Killed Reporter In West Bank

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Israel’s military admitted a “high probability” that one of its soldiers accidentally shot and killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Monday after a months-long probe into the incident, the Times of Israel reported.

Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist for the Qatar-based outlet Al Jazeera, died of gunshot wounds while covering an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) military operation on a refugee camp in the West Bank on May 11, according to the Times of Israel. The Israeli military’s initial review, conducted days after the incident, said stray fire from the Palestinian side could be responsible but acknowledged that an IDF soldier may also have mistakenly shot the journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” while aiming at a Palestinian target.

“There is a high probability that Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen during an exchange of fire in which life-threatening, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers,” an IDF spokesperson told the Times of Israel.

The IDF investigation did not conclusively determine that an IDF soldier was responsible for the journalist’s death, reiterating that no IDF soldier explicitly intentionally targeted her or any other civilian in the area.

A military official told the Times of Israel that the investigation revealed the soldier who “with very high likelihood” shot Abu Akleh. (RELATED: Israeli Military Kills Terrorist Commander In Gaza Strikes)

“He misidentified her. His reports in real-time point to a misidentification,” the official added.

The military said Monday the Military Advocate General found no evidence of criminal offense in the incident and would not open a criminal investigation into the soldier or his superiors, the Times of Israel reported.

Abu Akleh’s family claimed the IDF in its investigation “tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility,” the Times of Israel reported.

An earlier forensic analysis of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, conducted by third-party experts and overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), suggested it originated from an Israeli gun. While the investigation did not result in a “clear” resolution, it concluded that stray or unintentional Israeli gunfire was “likely” responsible for Abu Akleh’s death.

“The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in July, Axios reported.

Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of “blatant murder” on May 11, saying the IDF deliberately targeted Abu Akleh for assassination.

Israel maintains that the military operation targeted terrorists harboring in the Jenin refugee camp who were suspected of perpetrating attacks on Israelis that left 18 dead.

The Israeli Defense Ministry referred the Daily Caller News Foundation to the IDF. The IDF did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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