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Israel rejects US reporter death probe as mistake

by kenya-tribune

Israel has called the US Department of Justice’s decision to investigate the killing of Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Aqla a “mistake”.

Outgoing Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he had told US representatives that Israel would not co-operate.

The DoJ and FBI declined to comment, but Abu Aqla’s family praised the “important step toward accountability”.

The Al Jazeera correspondent was shot in the head during an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank in May.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) concluded that one of its soldiers probably killed her, but called her death unintentional and ruled out a criminal inquiry.

Shireen Abu Aqla, who was 51, arrived in Jenin refugee camp on 11 May to report on an Israeli army raid which had seen gun battles break out between soldiers and Palestinian militants.

She was wearing a helmet and blue flak jacket marked with the word “press” when she was killed while walking along a road with other journalists, one of whom was also shot and wounded.

Journalists, bystanders and Palestinian officials said the gunfire came from Israeli troops stationed about 200m (656ft) away – allegations which was later backed by investigations by the UN Human Rights Office and multiple media organisations.

The US state department said in July that the US Security Co-ordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority had concluded that “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death”. He also found that there was “no reason to believe that this was intentional”.

The IDF initially said that it was not possible to know who killed Abu Aqla. But in September a senior official told journalists that there was a high probability that she was shot “by mistake by an IDF soldier, and of course he didn’t identify her as a journalist”.

Abu Aqla’s family heavily criticised both the USSC’s and the IDF’s findings and demanded that the US carry out an independent FBI investigation into the killing of a US citizen. Their call also received the support by dozens of members of the US Congress, including more than 20 Democratic senators.

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