A joint investigation conducted by London-based research group Forensic Architecture and Palestinian group Al-Haq claimed on Tuesday, September 20, that Israeli forces deliberately shot Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and called it an “extrajudicial killing.” It used advanced spatial technology and data and video evidence provided by Al-Jazeera to recreate the act of the Israeli sniper.
The report released on their websites refutes assertions made earlier by Israel and the US that Abu Akleh’s death was accidental. The report conclusively establishes that at the time of her shooting, there was no gunfight in the area and that an Israeli sniper fired at her despite knowing her identity.
Abu Akleh was assassinated by Israeli forces on May 11 when she, along with other journalists, was covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Her colleague Ali al-Samoudi was also injured in the firing but survived.
The investigation found that Israeli claims of accidental fire were false and that the Israeli sniper knew about journalists’ presence in the area. He fired 13 rounds at them for at least two minutes without any provocation. The investigation also asserts that the Israeli sniper targeted the people who tried to help Abu Akleh after she was shot.
Israel has refused to take any action against the security personnel responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing. In a report published earlier this month, Israel had claimed that her death had not been intentional but was the result of gunfire between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli report asserted that it was “not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire that hit Abu Akleh.” However, it admitted that “there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidently hit by IDF gunfire that was fired towards suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire.”
Earlier, a US State Department statement issued on July 4 also said that Abu Akleh’s death was “accidental” and took place during caused in a gunfight where “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for” her killing. The statement claimed that the killing was not intentional but a result of “tragic circumstances.”
This was despite various previous investigations conducted by the media and human rights groups such as B’Tselem already having refuted the Israeli claims of a gunfight in the area at the time of Abu Akleh’s killing.
On the day report by Forensic Architecture and Al Haq was released, Abu Akleh’s family members moved the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeking justice. They filed a formal complaint with the support of the International Federation of Journalists and Palestinian Press Syndicate to establish Israeli accountability in Abu Akleh’s killing.
Even though Abu Akleh was a US citizen, all attempts by her family to seek US intervention in holding Israel accountable have failed to yield any result so far. US President Joe Biden refused to meet the family during his visit to Israel in July. The family reiterated their demand for justice when they met Secretary of State Antony Blinken later that month.