UN finds “well-aimed” Israeli bullets killed veteran journalist Abu Aqleh 

June 25, 2022 - 19:8

The United Nations has said its investigation has found that the bullets which killed veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh on May 11 were fired by the Israeli regime forces and were “well-aimed bullets”.

The UN inquiry backs up a Palestinian investigation and similar probes conducted by over half a dozen news networks, the latest being the New York Times.

Earlier, similar investigations by the Associated Press, CNN, the Washington Post and Al-Jazeera, for whom Abu Aqleh spent 25 years reporting for in the occupied territories found similar results, yet the regime continues to refuse responsibility for the murder. 

The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest and helmet marked “press”, was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin, in the northern occupied West Bank.

“We find that the shots that killed Abu Aqleh came from Israeli [regime] forces,” the UN human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said in Geneva. “It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.”

She said: “We at the UN human rights office have concluded our independent monitoring into the incident. The shots that killed Abu Aqleh and injured her colleague Ali Samodi came from Israeli [regime] forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities.”

Shamdasani added that the information came from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general saying “We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists,” Shamdasani said.

The UN findings show that seven journalists arrived at the western entrance of the Jenin refugee camp soon after 06 am. At about 06.30am, as four of the journalists turned into a particular street, “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them from the direction of the Israeli [regime] forces. One single bullet injured Ali Samodi in the shoulder; another single bullet hit Abu Aqleh in the head and killed her instantly.”

The United Nations’s high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called on Israel to open a criminal investigation into Abu Aqleh’s killing as well as all the other murders by Israeli regime forces in the occupied West Bank and in the besieged Gaza Strip. 

Yet, Israel has refused to do so, and very rarely does, if ever, conduct any criminal investigation into the killing of Palestinians by its troops, emboldening the regime’s occupation forces to continue murdering Palestinians carte blanche. 

Abu Aqleh’s murder was met with widespread international outrage, especially among western mainstream media. Yet the Palestinian-American veteran reporter, a household name in the Arab world, is just one of scores of Palestinian journalists the regime has gunned down (or silenced), who have received no media coverage in comparison to Abu Aqleh’s murder. 

Shamdasani says “more than six weeks after the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and injury of her colleague Ali Sammoudi in Jenin on 11 May 2022, it is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says “since just the beginning of the year, our Office has verified that Israeli [regime] Forces have killed 58 Palestinians in the [occupied] West Bank, including 13 children.”

The Palestinian death toll provided by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is widely believed to be much higher. The UNHCR adds that “International human rights law requires prompt, thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation into all use of force resulting in death or serious injury. Perpetrators must be held to account.”

The Palestinian Authority has refused to hand over the lethal bullet extracted from Abu Aqleh to Israel, saying it does not trust the regime.

"The results of the UN investigation confirm once again what we said from the start, that Israel is responsible for the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and it must be held accountable for this crime," Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told the media.

The PA has said its investigation showed that Abu Aqleh was shot by Israeli troops in a "deliberate murder". Its findings lent support to several witnesses, including Palestinian journalists, who said she was killed by Israeli fire. 

The Palestinian attorney general, said Abu Aqleh was hit with an armour-piercing bullet, saying the inquiry “proves that at the scene of the incident, armed Palestinians were not present, and that Israeli forces were the only ones present”.

According to the attorney general, the bullet that killed Abu Aqleh was a 5.56mm round with a steel component used by Nato forces and the shot was fired by an Israeli soldier who stood about 170 metres away.

The UN Human Rights Office dismissed Israeli claims that the journalist may have died as a result of “indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians,” saying “we have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists.”The UN says it’s investigation was carried out “in accordance with our global human rights monitoring methodology, our Office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.”

At the time and place of Abu Aqleh’s murder the UN report says “our findings indicate that no warnings were issued and no shooting was taking place at that time and at that location,” this is despite the slain journalist and six other journalists “wearing bulletproof helmets and flak jackets with “PRESS” markings,”

Shamdasani pointed out “several further single bullets were fired as an unarmed man attempted to approach Abu Aqleh’s body and another uninjured journalist sheltering behind a tree. Shots continued to be fired as this individual eventually managed to carry away Abu Aqleh’s body.” Abu Aqleh case has been added to a legal complaint being taken to the international criminal court, arguing that Israeli regime forces have been systematically targeting Palestinian journalists in violation of international humanitarian law.

The legal case originally submitted in April had focused on four Palestinian journalists wearing press helmets and vests, two of whom were injured and two other who were shot dead.

Lawyers in London representing the the case say it is vital to add Abu Aqleh’s murder as the repeated failure of the Israeli military to investigate such incidents.

One of the lawyers says “The ICC prosecutor must investigate our complaints and prosecute those responsible to send a clear message not just to the Israeli forces and [regime], but to all governments that targeting journalists is a crime and journalists are not fair game.”

The case is being supported by representatives from the International Federation of Journalists, the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians.

Critics say Israeli occupation troops have enjoyed a significant amount of impunity against accountability for their deadly use of force against Palestinians. Experts say the regime itself, with the backing of the United States, the United Kingdom and others has gone to extreme lengths with the aim of silence the voice of Palestinians. 

The reality of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israeli forces and Israeli settlers has not been exposed in full. Those who attempt to cover these crimes are silenced by the regime which uses various methods. 

These include the blacklisting of Palestinian civil groups providing vital information to the ICC investigating Israeli war crimes or the targeted killing of prominent Palestinian journalists covering these crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories and the besieged Gaza Strip.

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