U.S. officials have concluded that gunfire from Israeli positions likelybut that there was "no reason to believe" her shooting was intentional, the State Department said Monday.
The finding, in a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price, came after what the U.S. said were inconclusive tests under U.S. oversight of the bullet recovered from Abu Akleh's body. It said "independent, third-party examiners" had conducted an "extremely detailed forensic analysis."
"Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion" as to who fired the shot, Price said in the statement.
Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American correspondent who was well known throughout the Arab world, waswhile covering an Israeli military raid on May 11 in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian eyewitnesses, including her crew, say Israeli troops killed her and that there were no militants in the immediate vicinity.
Israel says she was killed during a complex battle with Palestinian militants and that only a forensic analysis of the bullet would confirm whether it was fired by an Israeli soldier or a Palestinian militant. It has strongly denied she was deliberately targeted, but says an Israeli soldier may have hit her by mistake during an exchange of fire with a militant.
U.S. security officials had examined the results of separate Palestinian and Israeli investigations and "concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh," Price said.
The U.S. "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," Price said.
Abu Akleh's family said in a statement that they were "incredulous" that the investigation could not reach a conclusion on who fired the shot that killed her. "There were numerous eyewitnesses to the killing," along with reporting from "multiple local and international media outlets, human rights organizations, and the United Nations that an Israeli soldier fired the fatal shot," they said.
The Israeli military presented the findings as part of its own investigation in a statement that was likely to anger the Palestinian Authority, which had adamantly rejected any Israeli role in the probe and refused to share the bullet with Israeli authorities.
The military said that while the bullet remained in the custody of U.S. officials throughout the process, it was examined by Israeli experts in a forensic laboratory in Israel.
Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, the army chief of staff, ordered the investigation be continued "using all available means," the military said in a statement. It said any decision on whether to launch criminal investigation would only be made after the operational investigation is completed.
The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh within hours of her death. Al Jazeera called on the international community to "condemn and hold the Israeli occupation forces accountable for deliberately targeting and killing our colleague."
An Associated Press reconstruction of her killing lent support to accounts by Palestinian eyewitnesses, including her crew, that she was killed by Israeli forces. Subsequent investigations by CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post reached similar conclusions.
Abu Akleh, 51, was born in Jerusalem. She began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and regularly reported on-camera from across the Palestinian territories.
CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab knew Abu Akleh personally and used to work with her in Jerusalem. He called her a kind and generous colleague who always tried to give a voice to people who were rarely heard from.
Violence marredon May 13 as a huge crowd gathered to carry her coffin from the hospital morgue to a church in Jerusalem's Old City for her funeral. Video clips showed Israeli riot police pushing and shoving mourners and firing tear gas.
Al Jazeera said Israel had warned Abu Akleh's brother to limit the size of the funeral procession, and told him no Palestinian flags should be displayed and no slogans chanted, but that he rejected the request.
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