Israel rules out criminal probe into killing of journalist amid global anger 

May 20, 2022 - 17:49

The Israeli regime will not be holding a criminal investigation after its troops were widely accused of shooting to death the prominent Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh.

In a statement on Thursday, the Israeli military claimed since Abu Aqleh was killed in an “active combat situation”, it will not launch a criminal investigation despite demands by the international community.

According to reports, the head of an Israeli Brigade, Meni Liberty, identified six occasions during the regime’s military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied territories when Israeli soldiers opened fire near Abu Aqleh and other journalists.

The regime’s military police are said to be satisfied with the assurances of Israeli troops that they were not aware the veteran reporter was in the camp when she was killed on May 11 during an Israeli military raid.

This comes despite the Israeli military acknowledging it has identified one of its soldier’s assault rifles that may have killed Abu Aqleh.

Palestinian officials, witnesses, and other journalists on the ground when Abu Aqleh was shot dead have blamed her death on Israeli troops.

The regime’s military initially claimed its troops shot back after coming under fire and that “there is a possibility, now being looked into, that reporters were hit,”

However, an Israeli military chief later backed down from those statements after footage of the incident circulated on the media which showed only Abu Aqleh (wearing a helmet and body armor clearly marked “press”) along with other journalists.

A producer for Al Jazeera who was also shot in the back told the media there were no gunmen standing anywhere near the journalists when they were targeted.

Even Israel’s closest ally, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, and the United Nations Security Council have called on the regime to conduct a transparent investigation.

Abu Aqleh was a household name across the Arab world, known for her 25 years of reporting on the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation. She spent that time working as a journalist for Al Jazeera news. Her murder has been met with widespread international coverage.

The U.S. had given assurances to her family that Washington would demand a proper investigation into the death of the duel American-Palestinian.

Washington has been denounced for not speaking out with the same tone as it did in the aftermath of the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Israeli military had previously released an account that said it could not unequivocally determine the source of the bullet that killed Abu Aqleh.

Palestinian officials have refused to hand over the recovered bullet to Israeli authorities, saying they have no trust in the regime. They are conducting their own investigation and have called for an international probe.

The Palestinian public prosecutor says preliminary findings show Abu Aqleh was killed by deliberate fire from Israeli troops adding that the investigation is ongoing.

Bellingcat, an independent Dutch-based research firm, has conducted its own analysis from all the videos and material it has gathered. It said its initial findings support the Palestinian witnesses who say she was killed by Israeli fire.

The decision by the Israeli military advocate general, Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, not to order an investigation is in line with Israel’s policy in which the entity has rarely criminally probed its murder of Palestinians.

Yesh Din an NGO in the occupied Palestinian territories also criticized the Israeli decision, saying that “the army law enforcement mechanisms no longer even bother to give the appearance of investigating.”

Dozens of U.S. lawmakers have signed a letter demanding the FBI investigate the killing of Abu Aqleh, congressman Andre Carson says after Israel’s military said it will not launch a criminal inquiry into the murder.

“As we all continue to mourn the loss of this great journalist, fellow American, who was tragically killed while on assignment, we want answers,” Carson, who is helping lead the congressional letter, told Al Jazeera.

“And we need to ensure that these answers are accurate, that they are transparent, and that they are timely.”

The letter, calls for the U.S. government to be directly involved in any probe into the fatal shooting of the journalist. “Given the tenuous situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we request the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launch an investigation into Ms. Abu Akleh’s death.”

“We also request the U.S. Department of State determine whether any U.S. laws protecting Ms. Abu Akleh, an American citizen, were violated,” it reads. “As an American, Ms. Abu Akleh was entitled to the full protections afforded to U.S. citizens living abroad.”

The statement is addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Carson has said the letter, which is still circulating on Capitol Hill for backing, has more than 55 co-signers already.

“The State Department called her killing an affront to media freedom. I couldn’t agree more,” Carson said.

A group of more than 125 artists, including American celebrities, acclaimed authors, and prominent musicians, have also signed a joint letter condemning Abu Aqleh’s killing.

The signatories to the letter published by Artists for Palestine UK has called for “full accountability for the perpetrators of this crime and everyone involved in authorizing it”.

However, their voices are more than likely to fall on dead ears.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has complained about a lack of Israeli accountability for Palestinian murders in the occupied territories.

Commenting on Abu Aqleh’s killing and the subsequent Israeli attack at her funeral, Bachelet said “as I have called for many times before, there must be appropriate investigations into the actions of Israeli security forces.”

The decision not to probe the murder of Abu Aqleh comes a day after Israeli authorities said they have given the go-ahead for flag-waving Israeli settlers to march through the heart of the main Palestinian access route in the Old City of occupied al-Quds later this month, in a decision that threatens to re-ignite violence in the holy city.

The regime says the march, which has been highly provocative in the past, would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate, a Palestinian neighborhood.??The Old City area, located in occupied East al-Quds, has experienced weeks of violent attacks by the regime’s forces against Palestinian demonstrators, and the march threatens to trigger further unrest.

Just like over the past decades, the regime’s leadership has not faced any international repercussions for its actions in the occupied territories essentially giving Israel the green light to continue its atrocities against Palestinians knowing it can count on international inaction.

One of the many punitive measures Israel has taken against the Palestinians over the last year is to silence them. This included the closure of Palestinian society groups to the murder of the most renowned Palestinian journalist.

During Abu Aqleh’s funeral procession Israeli regime forces physically assaulted the mourners carrying her casket prompting even further condemnation of the regime.

The European Union expressed its shock at the “unnecessary” force, while the regime’s closest allies in the White House described footage of the scene as “deeply disturbing”.

Meanwhile, Israel’s shaky ruling coalition has become a minority after an Arab member quit in protest at the regime’s treatment of the Arab community.

The departure leaves the wide eight-party coalition with just 59 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset and increases the chances of a fifth election in around a year.

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