RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Authority released its final findings on Thursday of a two-week investigation into the murder of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of deliberately killing her.
The Attorney General of the Authority said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the 5.56mm high-velocity bullet that struck her in the back of the head.
Palestinian officials said they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and that neither the Israeli nor the US authorities were allowed to examine the bullet.
“It has been proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces, stationed in the middle of the street, fired a sharp bullet that struck the martyr journalist directly in the head,” said Attorney General Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while trying to escape the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to the Palestinian announcement by saying that Israel is still conducting its own investigation into her murder, adding that any claim that the military is deliberately harming journalists is a “blatant lie”.
The Palestinian conclusions echoed those of the Authority’s preliminary investigation, announced two days after Ms. Abu Akleh was killed in an Israeli military attack on the occupied city of Jenin in the West Bank. She was wearing a blue flak and a helmet with the word “Press” on it when she was shot.
Another Al Jazeera journalist, Ali Samoudi, who was also wearing a protective vest, was shot in the back.
The bullet became the focus of separate efforts by Palestinians and Israelis to investigate the murder, as etchings were able to match it with the gun it was fired from. Israel has called on Palestinian officials to share the bullet that killed her so Israel can see if it matches a rifle used by one of its soldiers on the day of her death.
But the Palestinian Authority, which controls parts of the West Bank, has repeatedly rejected Israeli calls to jointly investigate Ms. Abu Akleh’s murder, as well as Israel’s request to investigate the bullet.
The Israeli military said in its initial investigation that it was not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire that killed Ms. Abu Akleh and that she could have been killed by an Israeli soldier or Palestinian gunman.
An Israeli military spokesman, Lt. Col. Amnon Shefler, said the military could not comment on whether Israeli soldiers used Ruger rifles during the raid before Israel’s own investigation into the killing was completed.
According to the attorney general, the results of the Palestinian investigation were based on autopsy, forensic tests on the bullet and witness statements, as well as tree marks where other bullets hit.
Amateur videos filmed at the location before and after her murder show no shooting in the minutes leading up to her murder. Bystanders were chatting and joking with each other in the seconds before she was killed, during a lull in the fighting.
Ms. Abu Akleh was shot from a range of 170 to 180 meters, the Authority’s investigation found. Multiple videos from before she was shot showed a number of Israeli military vehicles stationed on the road.
Ms. Abu Akleh, a veteran reporter for Al Jazeera, was an icon to many Palestinians, who for years covered the Israeli occupation of the West Bank for one of the major television channels in the Middle East.
Two days after her death, her funeral brought thousands of Palestinians to the streets of Jerusalem. Israeli police officers beat and kicked mourners as they carried her coffin after a dispute over how to carry the coffin to the funeral ceremony at a church in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israel has been conducting regular raids in the Jenin area since late March. Israel says the raids are necessary to curb a recent wave of attacks on Israelis, some of whom have come from the Jenin region. Palestinians view the raids as a form of collective punishment.
This week, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it had filed a letter with the International Criminal Court regarding several crimes committed by Israel in the occupied West Bank and, in particular, the “execution crime” of Ms. Abu Akleh.
Patrick Kingsley contributed from Jerusalem.