A photo taken on May 19, 2022 shows drawings at an art exhibit honoring slain Palestinian Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)
JERUSALEM – Israel's army said on Monday that there is "a high possibility" that Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by errant Israeli fire during a fire exchange in the occupied West Bank, according to a military investigation into the case.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank on May 11. She was then wearing a vest marked "Press" and a helmet.
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At least five separate investigations carried out by the United Nations and several international media outlets have found that the shot that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli Military Advocate General's office however said in a separate statement the findings did not amount to criminal reasonability
In a statement, the Israeli army said a special task force has concluded "a series of investigations" into the case but could not "unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire".
The army acknowledged that there was "a high possibility" that Abu Akleh was "accidentally" hit by Israeli gunfire that "was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers."
However, the Israeli Military Advocate General's office said in a separate statement, which summarized its own review of the case, that the findings did not amount to criminal reasonability.
Although there is "a high probability" that Abu Akleh was shot by Israeli troops, the circumstances of the incident "do not raise the suspicion of a crime having been committed which would justify the opening of a criminal investigation," according to the office of the highest legal authority in the IDF.
The Advocate General's office decision came after it reviewed the findings of the military probe as well as visual and audio analysis of the incident and information published by media organizations that blamed Israeli troops for the killing.
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The Israeli soldiers "only aimed fire at those who were identified as armed terrorists during the incident … There was no suspicion that a bullet was fired deliberately at anyone identified as a civilian," the office said.
"In the light of the nature of the operational activity, which included extensive exchanges of fire of a clear combat nature, no immediate criminal investigation was opened," it added.