Shireen Abu Akleh: For the first time, the Israeli army acknowledged on Monday that one of its soldiers had probably shot Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh after mistaking her for a militant.
According to the army's final report on its inquiry into Ms. Abu Akleh's death on May 11, "there is a high likelihood that Ms. Abu Akleh was inadvertently wounded by IDF (Israel Defence Forces) gunfire that was fired targeting suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen."
After claiming for months that it was impossible to verify the source of the fatal shot that killed the renowned Al Jazeera journalist in the occupied West Bank and that it may have been insurgent fire, the army has officially acknowledged the incident.
A senior Israeli military officer stated, "Our opinion is that it's not possible to tell with absolute certainty which gunfire killed her, but there's a larger possibility that she was hit by an errant shot of an IDF soldier who did not identify her as a journalist."
When Abu Akleh was shot in the head during an Israeli army operation, she was wearing a bulletproof vest designated "Press" and a helmet.
In a press statement following the army's assessment, the Abu Akleh family said that Israel had "refused to acknowledge responsibility for the murder" of the journalist.
The family demanded a "serious" US probe, saying, "We remain extremely hurt, frustrated, and disappointed."
While Israel has maintained that even if a soldier fired the fatal shot, it was not on purpose, the Palestinian Authority has claimed that Israel killed the reporter in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank on purpose.
Al-Jazeera claimed it criticized the Israeli investigation's conclusions and sought an investigation by a "independent international organization."
Al Jazeera issued a statement saying that it "condemns the Israeli occupation forces' refusal to clearly acknowledge their crime and attempts to escape the prosecution of the criminals."
The senior army official told reporters on Monday that the soldiers had misidentified Abu Akleh as a Palestinian militant while they were under heavy fire and were aiming for her.
The officer claimed that the shooters "didn't know she was a journalist when they fired in her direction, it was a mistake, they assumed they were firing at terrorists shooting at them."
Regarding the soldier who fired a shot in the direction of Shireen Abu Akleh, the officer remarked, "He's sorry about it, and I'm sorry about it, too."
He continued, "He didn't do it on purpose, it's really evident."
However, the Committee to Protect Journalists, located in New York, criticized the army's findings.
Its "The acknowledgement of guilt is tardy and unfinished. They did not reveal the identity of Shireen Abu Akleh's murderer and provide no further details than that person's own testimony that the killing was an error "said Sherif Mansour, coordinator of CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program.
The anti-Israeli settlement campaign organization B'Tselem in Israel branded the army report a "whitewash" and criticized it. It stated that the killing was "no error, it's policy."
According to a June report from the UN, there was "no evidence of action by armed Palestinians close by" at the time Shireen Abu Akleh was shot.
On July 4, the United States stated that she was most certainly shot by Israeli fire, but that there was no proof that her death was premeditated and that the bullet was too damaged to make a definitive determination.
"We welcome Israel's review of this tragic incident, and again underscore the importance of accountability in this case, such as policies and procedures to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future," said State Department spokesman Ned Price following the release of the army report on Monday.
The US's statement in July infuriated Shireen Abu Akleh's family and Palestinian leaders, who charged Washington with neglecting to hold Israel accountable for the journalist's murder despite the fact that she was also a US citizen.
After meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, Lina Abu Akleh, the journalist's niece, declared, "We are continuing to call for accountability and for justice for Shireen."
Since the incident occurred in an area where there was intense battle, Israel's military advocate had stated in May that there was no reason to suspect criminal behavior.
The incident's circumstances "do not create the suspicion of a crime having been committed which would justify the start of a criminal investigation," the military advocate stated on Monday.