Palestinians Give U.S. Bullet That Killed Shireen Abu Akleh

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-02 21:21:53 : Isabel Kershner

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority has handed over to a team of American investigators the bullet it says killed the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Palestinian officials said on Saturday, in a move meant to clarify the circumstances of the reporter’s death.

Ms. Abu Akleh, a veteran television correspondent for Al Jazeera and a household name in the Middle East, was fatally shot on May 11 during an early-morning Israeli army raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, prompting international outrage.

The circumstances around her death are disputed, but officials say that studying the bullet is necessary to conclusively determine who shot it.

Palestinian officials say that Ms. Abu Akleh was intentionally killed by an Israeli soldier. Israeli authorities said a soldier might have shot her by mistake but also suggested that she might have been killed by a Palestinian gunman.

“We are confident and certain of our investigations and the results we have reached,” Akram Al Khatib, the Palestinian attorney general, told WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, on Saturday, while specifying that the bullet had been handed over to a team of American ballistic specialists and not to the Israeli authorities.

Mr. Khatib has previously said that the journalist was killed by a 5.56 mm armor-piercing round with a steel component. Ms. Abu Akleh was wearing a helmet and a protective vest marked with the word “Press” when she was shot in the head.

A monthlong investigation by The New York Times found that the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh was fired from the approximate location of an Israeli military convoy early that morning, most likely by a soldier from an elite unit, corroborating eyewitness reports from the scene.

Israeli military officials have said it would only be possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire if the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited control over parts of the West Bank, handed over the bullet extracted from Ms. Abu Akleh’s body so that the army could either match it to a rifle used that morning by an Israeli sniper or rule out Israeli involvement in the killing.

American and Israeli officials had no immediate comment on the plans to examine the bullet.

Israel had previously called for a joint investigation and offered to examine the bullet in the presence of Palestinian and American representatives. The Palestinian Authority has refused a joint investigation, citing distrust of the Israelis.

The United States has called for the two sides to cooperate and share their evidence with each other.

Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, told reporters last month that sharing evidence “will be able to facilitate what is our goal, what should be a collective goal, and that is an investigation that is impartial, that’s transparent, that’s thorough, and that culminates in accountability.”

The Biden administration has come under mounting pressure from members of the House and Senate to launch an independent investigation into the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was also an American citizen.

A letter to President Biden dated June 23 and signed by 24 Senate Democrats called for direct American involvement in the investigation into her death.

The Palestinian Authority’s decision to hand over the bullet comes two weeks before Mr. Biden is expected to visit the Middle East for the first time since he took office.

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