Israel’s military police reportedly decided not to open a criminal investigation into the shooting murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, even though the newly released video appears to contradict the Israeli military’s claim that the journalist was standing near Palestinian militants when she was shot dead last week in the occupied West Bank.
Amos Harel, senior military correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, reported on Thursday that the decision not to investigate the Israeli soldiers who may have fired the fatal shot came after an internal review by the Israel Defense Forces commando unit “found six instances of the IDF firing on armed Palestinians who were near Abu Akleh,” while reporting on an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in Jenin.
According to Harel, the IDF’s Criminal Investigations Division simply accepted the accounts of the soldiers who opened fire, but “testified that they did not see the journalist at all and directed their shots at armed men, who were indeed nearby”.
However, hours after Harel’s reporting, a video posted to Twitter by Rushdi Abualouf, a Palestinian BBC reporter, appeared to contradict the claim that Abu Akleh was in the vicinity of Palestinian gunmen engaged in a firefight with the Israeli troops. The clip shows Abu Akleh and several other journalists, all wearing blue vests marked “Press”, instead walking towards the Israeli soldiers, while young men behind them stood around talking and joking, when shots suddenly rang out and Abu Akleh and a colleague were both hit.
Like the writer and political analyst Yousef Munayyer Explain on Twitter, “At the start of the video, you can see the mood is relaxed, it’s not really clear what they’re saying, mostly because they’re laughing.” After several shots are heard and the young men have dispersed, a voice is heard saying, “Has anyone been hit?” and call an ambulance. Then, after several shots, someone shouts, “Shireen! Shireen!” and, amid the frantic calls for the ambulance, the desperate warning: “Stay where you are, don’t move!
Video released on the day of the killing last week appears to show people who tried to reach the mortally wounded Abu Akleh being shot at as they approached her.
Harel also reported that there were no real plans for a criminal investigation of Israeli soldiers because “such an investigation, which would require questioning as potential suspects of soldiers for their actions during a military operation, would provoke opposition and controversy within the IDF and in Israeli society in general.
This latest evidence of Israeli military impunity has outraged critics of the ongoing Israeli occupation, which imposes military rule on millions of Palestinians living in territory seized during the war in 1967.” observed Edo Konrad, editor of +972, a nonprofit online magazine run by a group of Palestinian and Israeli journalists. “He knows that no one will hold him accountable, that the money will keep flowing, while at the same time ensuring that no [sic] ‘will never really know’ who killed Shireen Abu Akleh,” Konrad added.
As commentators in the United States asked how the Biden administration would react to news that the Israeli military was refusing to carry out the thorough investigation it committed to just a week ago, senior officials Americans have gone out of their way in recent days to demonstrate what National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called “ironclad support for Israel’s security.”
I had a great meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the White House today. We discussed strong support for Israel’s security, ways to deal with Iranian aggression, efforts to reduce tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and support for Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/wffWZ8pnB0
—Jake Sullivan (@JakeSullivan46) May 19, 2022
As Sullivan met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the White House on Thursday, the Israeli military was celebrating a friendly visit to Israel by Lt. Gen. Michael Kurilla, the new commander of US Central Command.
Abu Akleh’s murder may not have shaken Israel’s relationship with the United States, but it has destabilized the country’s fragile coalition government. A leftist lawmaker on Thursday cited the Israeli police attack on mourners at the funeral of the beloved US-Palestinian correspondent in Jerusalem last week as one of the reasons she was withdrawing her support for the government , which could force new elections.
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who represents the Meretz party, wrote in a letter explaining her decision that her hope that Arabs and Jews could work together to create “a new path of equality and respect” had been shattered by a series of “warmongering, hard-line and right-wing positions” taken by coalition leaders. The sight of police attacking mourners at Abu Akleh’s funeral, and nearly knocking over the coffin, prompted her to make what she called “a moral decision” to stop supporting the government.