WASHINGTON: Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was likely killed by unintentional gunfire from Israeli positions, but independent investigators could not reach a definitive conclusion about the origin of the bullet that struck her, the US State Department said on Monday.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, was killed on May 11 during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.
The US Security Coordinator (USSC), after summarizing investigations by both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority, concluded that gunfire from Israeli positions was likely responsible for Abu Akleh’s death, the State Department said.
“The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” the State Department said in a statement.
In forensic analysis by third-party examiners overseen by the USSC, however, ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged which prevented a clear conclusion as to its origin, the State Department said.
Abu Akleh's family said Monday they were “incredulous” after the US reported it was not possible to determine whose gun fired the bullet which killed her.
“With respect to today’s announcement by the State Department — on July 4, no less — that a test of the spent round that killed Shireen Abu Akleh, an American citizen, was inconclusive as to the origin of the gun that fired it, we are incredulous,” the family said in a statement.
Palestinians have said the Israeli military deliberately killed Abu Akleh. Israel has denied this, saying she may have been hit by errant army fire or by a bullet from one of the Palestinian gunmen who were clashing with its forces at the scene.
The death of Abu Akleh, and feuding between the sides over the circumstances, have overshadowed a visit by US President Joe Biden due this month.