Israel says it will test bullet that killed reporter, Palestinians disagree

A Palestinian woman photographs the spot where Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead during an Israeli raid on Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

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JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH, West Bank, July 3 (Reuters) – Israel said Sunday it would test a bullet that killed a Palestinian-American journalist to determine if one of its soldiers had shot her and said a US observer would be present.

The Palestinians, who handed the bullet to a US security coordinator on Saturday, said they were assured Israel would not participate in the ballistics. read more

Washington has not yet responded. The United States has a holiday weekend on the occasion of July 4.

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The death of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 during an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank, and arguments between the parties over the circumstances, have overshadowed a visit by US President Joe Biden scheduled for this month.

Palestinians say the Israeli army deliberately killed Abu Akleh. Israel denies this, saying it may have been hit by errant army fire or a bullet from one of the Palestinian gunmen who collided with its troops on the spot.

In a separate incident, a 17-year-old Palestinian died in hospital after being shot by Israeli soldiers late Saturday during a clash in the West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said. The Israeli military said a suspect threw an incendiary bomb at soldiers, who opened fire in response.

“The (ballistics) test will not be American. The test will be an Israeli test, with American presence everywhere,” Israeli military spokesman Brigadier General Ran Kochav said.

“In the coming days or hours it will become clear whether it was even us who accidentally killed her or whether it was the Palestinian gunmen,” he told Army Radio. “If we kill her, we will take responsibility and regret what happened.”

Palestinian Authority attorney general Akram al-Khatib said the test would take place at the US embassy in Jerusalem.

“We have received assurances from the US coordinator that the investigation will be conducted by them and that the Israeli side will not participate,” Al-Khatib told Voice of Palestine radio, adding that he expected the bullet to be returned on Sunday.

A spokesman for the US embassy said: “We have nothing new at this time.”

Biden is expected to hold separate meetings with Palestinian and Israeli leaders during his July 13-16 trip to the Middle East. The Abu Akleh case will be a diplomatic and domestic test for new Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

“It will take a few days to conduct a ballistics test, with several experts, to make sure there is an unambiguous assessment,” Israel’s Deputy Interior Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz told Army Radio.

Israel has said the person who fired the bullet can only be identified by linking it to a handgun in a forensics lab. Such tests usually require finding marks on the bullet left by the unique barrel of the gun it was fired from.

The Israeli military previously said a soldier would have been able to fire the fatal shot, suggesting it might only consider that soldier’s rifle.

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Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Edmund Blair and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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