IDF says there’s a ‘high possibility’ that Israeli bullet killed Al Jazeera journalist

The IDF says that its soldiers were under '360 degree' fire from Palestinian militants


The Israel Defence Force (IDF) says there’s a “high possibility” that journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot by an Israeli soldier, and says that the military is “very, very sorry for this tragic death”.

A Senior IDF Official said: “Our initial finding is it’s very hard to conclude from which fire Ms Akleh was killed, but there is a possibility, quite a high possibility that she was shot by mistake, fire that was shot my mistake by an IDF soldier.

"And of course, he didn’t identify her as a journalist.”

The IDF says that its soldiers were under “360 degree” fire from Palestinian militants during the operation in the West Bank city of Jenin, but the senior official added: “The IDF is very, very sorry for this tragic loss of life.” The military investigation found that all its procedures and rules of engagement were followed during the operation, and therefore a criminal referral will not be made.

Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh died during an IDF operation in the West Bank city of Jenin on the 11th of May this year. The IDF says that it immediately began an investigation into her death, which they said was “very in-depth", and “really counted bullet by bullet” to understand what happened. The Palestinian Authority refused to conduct a joint investigation, as it has done following previous incidents.

Three investigations were conducted, the IDF says. The first was conducted within the chain of command by people “external” to the unit, the second by the Brigade Commander, and a third review was conducted after the IDF Chief of Staff asked for the findings to be reconfirmed. "When we did our investigation, we pinpointed every point where we had an IDF soldier, and we came to the conclusion that he was under fire,” a Senior IDF Official said.

“The fire was vast very precise, and also peripheral, and my fighters were conducting gunfights with these militants.”

The official added that Molotov cocktails were hurled at soldiers from “very, very close”. "We thoroughly checked how we mobilised our rules of engagement in the event and we found no errors. The soldiers were briefed and acted by procedure.”

“We can say for 100% sure that no IDF soldier intentionally directed fire on a reporter or non-involved personnel on the ground.” The IDF says that its findings were referred to the independent Military Advocate General, who asked questions of the investigators: “After looking at and analysing all the findings, she made the decision not to open a criminal investigation into this event.”

The senior IDF official added: “The soldiers weren’t aware of a journalist being there.” “It’s very important in the IDF values not to harm uninvolved personnel, and also we cherish the freedom of press as a democracy.”

“We’re very proud of how our soldiers operate night after night with our defence, saving lives and doing as much as they can to complete their missions.” Ms Abu Akleh’s death triggered outrage around the world, and multiple news organisations conducted analysis of the events that led to her death.

A New York Times investigation found that there had been gunfire from Palestinian militants prior to the shooting, and concluded that Ms Abu Akleh had likely been shot by a soldier from an elite military unit, which the senior IDF official confirmed today.

The report also found that there was no gunfire in the area where Ms Abu Akleh was shot, which the IDF insists was not the case: “It’s our estimate that there were militants in the vicinity of Ms Abu Akleh.

"Maybe not one metre beside her, but they were in that area.”

The IDF says that the decision was made in a “blink” when under fire, and pointed to the fact that the person standing next to her was not shot, proving that journalists were not targeted.

“We couldn’t see her. Ms Abu Akleh, at that moment, was probably standing with her back to the soldier. If this was us, he didn’t see her press [identifiers], or the things that basically [indicted] that she was a journalist.”

The official added: “I am very proud of my warfighters as the commander of this region, who conduct themselves in these very, very complex missions under fire.”

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