A Qatar-based news network reported Sunday evening that the investigation into the shooting that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akleh had been completed at the US embassy in Jerusalem and that the round was handed back to Palestinian authorities.
Palestinian Justice Minister Mohamed al-Shaldeh told the network that the bullet was returned on Sunday and officials were now awaiting the results of the analysis, which according to the report was expected sometime on Monday.
Experts say ballistic analysis could shed definitive light on the death of Abu Akleh. The veteran Palestinian-American correspondent, 51, was killed under disputed circumstances in Jenin as he, along with a team of other journalists, covered an Israeli army raid in mid-May.
Shaldeh said an independent investigation should now be conducted “so that we can understand exactly what happened, who is responsible and why.”
Since Abu Aqle holds US citizenship, Washington “has the right to request this bullet for the purpose of conducting a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the killing … and we at the Palestinian Authority welcome it,” Shaldeh said.
As reported by Al Jazeera, the results were expected on Monday.
The Palestinian Authority has insisted for weeks that it will not hand over the bullet or conduct a joint investigation with Israel. But almost face-to-face, Ramallah transferred the bullet to the US embassy on Saturday night for an American examination.
It was unclear which side – the US or Israel – led the analysis, but Israel said on Sunday that its experts would investigate the bullet, disputing Palestinian claims that US experts would conduct a forensic analysis.
Israeli military spokesman Ran Kochav said Sunday the test would be held “in the presence of the Americans”.
“The professional Israeli test will take place in the presence of the Americans. If there is a match between the shells and weapons of Israeli soldiers, we will inform the public,” Kochav told Radio 103FM.
Al Jazeera cited Palestinian sources who said the analysis was done “in the presence of an Israeli expert”. The PA has refused to send experts on its behalf.
Abu Akleh’s death has been the subject of a duel investigation by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
During the May raid, there was a gunfight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen. At some point, Abu Akleh was shot in the head.
The PA’s investigation found that he was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.
Israel initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for the shooting, but later acknowledged that Abu Akleh may have also been killed by Israeli troops. Israeli officials have also identified a gun that may have fired the fatal shot – but say they cannot establish the case with certainty without forensic analysis.
The bullet was handed over to a senior US military officer on Saturday. The Palestinian Authority’s chief prosecutor, Akram al-Khatib, said US ballistic experts would investigate the shells, not Israel.
“The bullet that killed Shirin Abu Akleh will not be transferred to the Israeli side,” al-Khatib said in a statement on Saturday night.
But it appears that Kochov dismissed those claims, telling Army Radio on Sunday that a US general would oversee the Israeli investigation as long as the bullet was in Israel.
“This is an Israeli test, an Israeli investigation with an American presence. The Palestinians who so graciously moved the bullet, did it so that there could be an Israeli investigation with an American presence,” he said.
Israel has offered to conduct a joint investigation with Ramallah ever since Abu Akleh was shot. Israeli officials have said ballistic analysis of bullet-to-gun matching is necessary to determine whether an Israeli soldier fired the fatal round.
The PA has repeatedly rejected those offers, as have the family of Abu Akleh. Palestinian officials initially declined to share this round with the United States, saying they would share the results of their own investigation with interested parties.
The US urged Ramallah to share the results of its investigation with Israel to shed potentially definitive light on the incident.
In a public letter in early June, a bipartisan group of 25 US lawmakers urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure PA to drop the bullet.
“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to forensic evidence of Abu Aqleh’s death for an independent investigation so that all parties can reach a definite conclusion about the events of his death, and that all parties be held accountable,” the MPs said. wrote.