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A Palestinian holds a picture of slain Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, during a candlelight event to condemn her killing. File photo: AP

Israeli army says soldier likely killed Al-Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh

  • Military said the journalist was probably killed by a soldier, by mistake
  • Senior official said military’s top legal officer will not launch criminal probe, meaning soldier and chain of command will not face punishment

The Israeli army said Monday there was a “high possibility” that a soldier killed a well-known Al Jazeera journalist in May.

A senior military official said the military’s top legal officer will not be launching a criminal probe into the incident, meaning neither the soldier nor anyone in his chain of command will face punishment.

Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in May while covering Israeli military raids in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians blamed Israel for the killing. Israel initially said she may have been killed by militant fire, but later said a soldier may have hit her by mistake during an exchange of fire.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, had covered the West Bank for the satellite channel for two decades and was well known across the Arab world.

In a briefing to reporters, the official said the military could not conclusively determine where the fire emanated from, saying there may have been Palestinian gunmen in the same area as the Israeli soldier.

But he said the soldier killed the journalist “with very high likelihood” and did so by mistake. The official did not explain why witness accounts and videos showed limited militant activity in the area, as well as no gunfire in the vicinity until the barrage that struck Abu Akleh and wounded another reporter.

“He misidentified her. His reports in real time point to a misidentification,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under military briefing guidelines.

The results of the probe, announced nearly four months after the killing, largely align with those of several independent investigations completed much earlier.


Al Jazeera journalist covering Israeli raid in West Bank shot dead

Al Jazeera journalist covering Israeli raid in West Bank shot dead

There was no immediate reaction from Palestinian officials, Al Jazeera or her family.

The Israeli findings mirror those of a US State Department investigation in July, which concluded that gunfire from Israeli army positions was “likely responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death. The US probe found that the bullet that killed her was too badly damaged to offer a definitive conclusion as to who was responsible.

The Palestinian Authority rejected the US findings, arguing that the journalist had been deliberately targeted by Israeli forces.