(JTA) – The Palestinian Authority concluded its investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by accusing Israeli soldiers of deliberately shooting her in the back, a claim that Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said could not be true.
“Any claim that the IDF intentionally targets journalists or those uninvolved [in terror] is a crude and blatant lie,” Gantz said in a statement after the release of the PA report on Thursday. Israel has maintained that it is possible Palestinian militants were responsible for Akleh’s May 11 death during an IDF raid in the West Bank.
According to media reports, Palestinian investigators said that forensic evidence demonstrated that the Palestinian American journalist had been running away from Israeli soldiers when she was struck, although Akram Al Khateeb, the PA’s attorney general, said at the press conference that Akleh was shot by a weapon not typically used by Israeli forces. The PA has thus far refused Israeli requests to participate in a joint investigation or to hand over the bullet that killed Akleh.
Their analysis came on top of investigations from CNN and the Associated Press earlier this week concluding that Israeli soldiers were likely responsible for her death and that there was little to no Palestinian militant presence in the area at the time. CNN additionally used eyewitness testimony to claim that she was killed in a “targeted attack.” Al Jazeera has also accused the Israeli military of deliberately targeting Akleh.
Gantz’s statement called the IDF “a moral army” that “always act[s] with precision.” He said that the IDF had been responding to a wave of terrorism in recent weeks that had some ties to the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin, where Akleh was killed. There were more reports of clashes between the IDF and Palestinians in Jenin on Friday.
IDF Chief of State Aviv Kohavi backed up Gantz’s statement, saying, “It can be stated with certainty that no soldier deliberately fired at her.”
Rather than involve the international community in its investigation, the PA is “proud that we did not include anyone else in the investigation,” Nabil Abu Rudeinah, spokesperson for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said at the press conference. Rudeinah also criticized “American aid and global silence” in the aftermath of Akleh’s death.
Akleh’s death set off a firestorm of controversy both in Israel and internationally, which increased when Israeli police rushed people at her funeral, nearly knocking over her coffin. Israeli officials said the officers were reacting to people throwing stones.
U.S. House Democrats have called for an investigation into the matter.