IDF expands Abu Akleh probe, issues fresh call for PA to hand over fatal bullet

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The Israel Defense Forces said Friday that it was expanding a probe into the death of Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and issued a fresh call to the Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullet that killed her.

Abu Akleh was shot and killed last month during clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin in the West Bank.

A Palestinian probe said that an Israeli soldier deliberately shot her dead. Israel has rejected the claim as blatantly false, and says it cannot definitively say who killed her until it examines the bullet, which the Palestinian Authority is refusing to share.

An IDF statement said that Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi had ordered the team investigating the incidents of May 11 to be enlarged “in order to deepen the study of documentary evidence from that night.”

The team has now been joined by “a senior officer with specialized technological abilities from the intelligence department.”

The army also reissued a call for the Palestinians to share the findings from the bullet recovered during Abu Akleh’s autopsy.

Palestinian Authority Attorney General Akram Al Khateeb, left, and spokesperson for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, announce the results of the Palestinian investigation into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 26 , 2022. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The PA has refused to hand over the bullet, saying it doesn’t trust Israel and pointing to previous cases of killings by soldiers who received little or no punishment.

“The IDF again urges the Palestinians to hand over the bullet,” the army said, noting that “the Palestinians have on several occasions taken part in joint investigations with Israel.”

“The Palestinian refuses to hand over the bullet and hold a joint investigation indicates their priorities,” the statement said.

The IDF also condemned several independent investigations into Abu Akleh’s death that concluded she was shot by Israeli soldiers, with some claiming she was deliberately targeted. It called the probes “biased.”

While the IDF says it can’t conclusively say who shot her until it gets the bullet, it reiterated that its investigations up till now have shown she was definitely not targeted deliberately.

On Thursday, the Al Jazeera news network, which employed Abu Akleh, released a photo it said showed the bullet that caused her death.

It was the first public image of the bullet, which has been a centerpiece of controversy following her death.

Little information could be gleaned from the photo, with the bullet appearing to be of a type widely used by the IDF and Palestinian terror groups.

The US has also repeatedly called on Israel and the Palestinians to conclude the probes into the death of the reporter, a US citizen.

On Thursday, the US also called on Israel to release the findings of an internal police investigation into violence at her funeral.

Israeli police said Wednesday they had concluded a probe into the violence at the funeral — without however releasing any findings.

The police launched the probe following an international outcry after the veteran reporter’s coffin was almost dropped when police attacked the pallbearers, beating some with batons, during her funeral last month.

Thousands had attended the service in East Jerusalem, and images of the unrest were broadcast live on TV. Israeli authorities blamed Palestinian protesters for the ugly scenes.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the US was seeking more information about the probe into the funeral.

Mourners carry the coffin of slain veteran Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her burial at the Mount Zion Cemetery outside Jerusalem’s Old City on May 13, 2022. (Hazem Bader / AFP)

“Certainly, to us, typically these investigations — the findings of them — are released publicly,” Price told reporters in Washington.

Price reiterated that the United States believed the funeral had “disturbing intrusions into what should have been a peaceful procession.”

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