RAMALLAH: Palestinian Justice Minister Mohammed Al-Shalaldeh said Israel bears full responsibility for the assassination of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and that it was a premeditated crime that amounts to a war crime.
Abu Akleh was shot in the head on Wednesday morning during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin.
Six days after Israel denied its soldiers were responsible, an Israel Defence Force officer told Haaretz that an Israeli soldier seemed to have had fired at Abu Akleh and killed her.
The officer added that an Israeli soldier sitting in an army vehicle with a rifle equipped with a telescopic lens fired at Abu Akleh from 190 meters and killed her.
During his subsequent interrogation, the soldier said he did not know he shot at Abu Akleh when he fired, had not seen her, and did not know her identity.
Al-Shalaldeh said: “Let the one who fired know that this projectile is in our possession, and the evidence for that is that we cannot participate with the Israelis in this investigation because we also have sovereignty under the Israeli occupation, and therefore we do not allow that it is a joint investigation, and have many similar bad experiences with the occupying power.”
He added that examining the bullet would take time due to the nature of forensic investigations.
“All specialists and experts in this regard take all legal measures, but in principle, we say in terms of evidence, and the criminal evidence says that the projectile came from … the Israeli occupation soldiers,” said the minister.
Israeli TV Channel 12 reported that the US asked Israel for clarification regarding the investigation into the death of Abu Akleh, who was a Palestinian-American citizen.
The Palestinian public prosecutor requested an autopsy of Abu Akleh’s body to find out the cause of death and to locate any evidence to link it to the party responsible for it.
On May 12, the Institute of Forensic Medicine at An-Najah National University in Nablus revealed that the shot that killed Abu Akleh left her with no chance of survival even with medical intervention.
Dr Rayan Al-Ali, director of the institute, said that the bullet created a complete laceration of the brain and skull on impact.
Al-Ali indicated that the distance of the shot could not be accurately determined. “All we can conclude now is that the distance is more than a meter, and this means that the shooting came from a (distant) source,” he said
He pointed out that the doctors found a mutilated projectile, and added: “The size of the injury makes us know the nature of the weapon used, and what we can say now is that it is a long, belted, high-speed weapon,”
Al-Ali stressed that it was not possible to disclose any further information at this time.
The director of Al Jazeera’s office in Ramallah, Walid Al-Omari, confirmed the occupation forces’ role in Abu Akleh’s death a speech in front of An-Najah University Hospital in Nablus.
The testimonies of eyewitnesses, from fellow journalists to civilians present at the moment of Abu Akleh’s death, also imply that the gunfire came from the IDF.
Al-Omari said: “We have a premeditated crime, and a clear field assassination, where journalists, including Abu Akleh, wore what distinguishes them and protects them. The shooting of them came deliberately.”
An internal investigation conducted by the IDF revealed that an Israeli sniper from the Dovdovan special unit had fired through a hole in his armoured military vehicle, and likely hit Abu Akleh by mistake.
“The army’s investigation is a partial investigation, so they requested the bullet from the Palestinian side because of its great scientific importance, and examining the bullet enables it to confirm whether it was fired from an Israeli or non-Israeli rifle,” a senior Israeli defense expert told Arab News.