The Palestinian Authority has handed over to US forensic experts the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on May 11, according to Palestinian officials. Akram al-Khatib, the general prosecutor for the Palestinian Authority, had said that officials had “agreed to transfer the bullet to the Americans for examination”. However, conflicting reports over who would conduct the tests on the bullet emerged on Sunday, with an Israeli military spokesman telling Army Radio: “The test will not be American. The test will be an Israeli test, with an American presence throughout.”
Al-Khatib, meanwhile, told Voice of Palestine radio that officials had received “guarantees” from the United States “that the examination will be conducted by them and that the Israeli side will not take part”. The US did not immediately comment on the opposing claims.
Palestinian officials, and many rights groups and media outlets, have reached the conclusion that Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli military. The United Nations human rights office last month said that information it had gathered showed that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli forces. Several witnesses said Israeli forces killed the Jerusalem-born Abu Akleh.
Israeli officials initially said Palestinian fighters could have killed Abu Akleh. However, Israel later backtracked and said it could not rule out the possibility that an Israeli soldier had fired the shot. The decision to give the bullet to US experts follows a weeks-long impasse over who would conduct the investigation, with Palestinian officials saying a probe involving Israel would not be transparent.
“The Palestinians have been very clear that they do not want Israel involved when it comes to the analysis of the bullet,” Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reported from West Jerusalem. “They refused to hand it over before; they refused a joint investigation which [Israel] offered very soon after the killing.”
The Palestinian decision to finally hand the bullet over to the US follows a call between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week, with US officials “keen to have this wrapped up” before US President Joe Biden visits Israel and the occupied West Bank next week, Dekker said.
She added the results from the analysis were expected to be delivered to the Palestinians by the end of the day, although “whether that is going to lead to any accountability and justice, Palestinians certainly remain extremely skeptical”. Bottom of Form Palestinians was quick to condemn Israel’s alleged involvement in the analysis. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said if the Israeli reports were true, “two huge mistakes have been done”.