On 11 May a year ago, journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli army operation in a refugee camp in Jenin, in the West Bank. She died shortly after being hit in the head by a bullet. It is very probable that the journalist was killed by Israeli soldiers, but a year after her killing, the investigations are in fact at a standstill: the authorities of Israel and Palestine are repaying each other the responsibility and at the moment arriving at a shared truth seems very complex.
Shireen Abu Akleh was 51 years old and a well-known journalist in the Middle East: she worked as a correspondent for Al Jazeera from Palestine for 25 years and had always dealt with the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian revolts since the second intifada, which began in 2000. She was born in Jerusalem and lived between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank, where she was known for her television reporting. She had lived in the United States where she had obtained US citizenship through part of her maternal family residing in the state of New Jersey.
On the day she was killed, Abu Akleh was in Jenin, located in the northern West Bank, to document an Israeli military operation aimed at arresting Palestinian “terrorist suspects”.
With her was another Palestinian journalist from Al Jazeera, Ali al Samoudi, who was wounded by a bullet in the back and who later recounted what had happened: ‘We were on our way to film the Israeli military operation when suddenly we were hit without being asked to stop filming. The first bullet took me, the second Shireen.’
Both Al Samoudi and other journalists present in Jenin that day said they were hit by several shots fired at them even though they were recognizable as journalists because they wore jackets with the inscription Press (“Press”) and protective helmets . They also said that at the time of the shooting the journalists were in a place where there were no Palestinian guerrillas, and accused the Israeli soldiers of deliberately shooting at them.
Initially, the Israeli authorities had categorically denied any involvement of its army in the killing of Abu Akleh, and claimed that she had been killed by a bullet fired by the Palestinians themselves at Israeli soldiers, which would have accidentally hit the journalist.
For this reason, the Israeli army had decided that the military police, ie its internal body that deals with alleged crimes committed by army personnel, would not open any criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. It was only in September that the Israeli army had admitted for the first time the possibility that Abu Akleh had been killed “accidentally” by bullets fired “at persons suspected of being armed Palestinians, during a firefight”, but had nevertheless specified that the possibility remained that the bullet had been fired by a Palestinian.
An investigation conducted by the Palestinian National Authority, the political governing body of Palestine, had instead concluded that it was Israeli soldiers who killed the journalist. However, it has so far been impossible to launch an independent investigation, given that the Palestinian authorities have always refused to hand over the bullet extracted from the journalist’s head to the Israeli authorities or those of other countries, so that they could make an expert opinion, probably for fear of cover-ups.
In June though Al Jazeera He said that he had obtained some images of the bullet: after analyzing them he concluded that it was of a 5.56 mm calibre, of American production and compatible with those normally used by the Israeli army. Also an investigation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded in the same month that Abu Akleh had been killed by an Israeli soldier, based on photographic, video, audio material and an inspection of the sites of the attack .
Without the possibility of independent scientific analysis of the bullet, it is very difficult to arrive at conclusions that are not contested by one or the other side.
The latest big news on the case dates back to last November, when in the meantime the US Justice Department had announced that it had launched its own investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, which the Israeli government had defined as “a serious mistake” and which he had immediately decided not to cooperate. Since then, however, the investigation into the journalist’s murder has effectively stalled.