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Israel Asks Palestinian Authorities to Hand Over Bullet That Killed Al Jazeera Journalist for Forensic Investigation

Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 27, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS
Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 27, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS

Israel is in talks with the Palestinian Authority to receive the bullet that hit and killed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a military raid in the Jenin area of the West Bank on Wednesday, to enable a through investigation of the incident.

“We do not know what was the direct cause for Shireen’s death, but we want to get to the bottom of this incident to uncover what exactly happened,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz told journalists during a briefing Wednesday night. “We do not currently have a way to conduct a full forensic investigation. So we asked the Palestinians to provide us with the bullet head they had found.”

Preliminary results of an autopsy ordered by the Palestinian Authority showed that Abu Akleh died of a bullet wound to the head, the director of the Palestinian Forensic Medicine Institute said in the West Bank city of Nablus. Gantz expressed his “deep sorrow and condolences” over her death, adding that it was a “very, very tragic event and a serious loss.”

Earlier on Wednesday, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said that he appointed a dedicated team to investigate the incident and bring out the truth, including the possibility that the gunfire that led to the journalist’s death came from Palestinian militants. Gantz had previously said that early findings indicated a “reasonable chance” Abu Akleh was shot by Palestinian terrorists, who traded fire with Israeli troops conducting counter-terror operations in Jenin.

Gantz said that Israel seeks to conduct not just a military debriefing but a full-scale investigation, to include a forensic analysis of the death of the Palestinian-American journalist.

“We hope to get Palestinian cooperation on this issue because without the report of the pathologic surgery she went through, the pathological findings and the forensic findings, it will be very hard for us to figure out what exactly happened on the ground,” Gantz cautioned. “Initial findings from the investigation cannot indicate what gunfire was directed at Shireen and I cannot exclude any option under this operational chaos which was on the ground.”

Israel said it offered to conduct a joint investigation with Palestinian authorities to determine the facts of the shooting, a proposal that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier Wednesday has thus far been refused.

White House spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden administration “strongly” condemns the killing of Abu Akleh, calling for an “immediate and thorough” investigation and for those responsible to be be held accountable.

“Her death is an affront to media freedom everywhere,” Price tweeted.

Gantz said that Israel is in touch with the US and the Palestinian Authority and will share its findings in a “clear and transparent” manner to both.

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