The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says its findings have shown the bullets that killed veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last month were fired by Israeli forces.
"We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces," OHCHR’s spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva on Friday.
"It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation. We at the UN Human Rights Office have concluded our independent monitoring into the incident. The shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities," Shamdasani added.
Stressing that the information came from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general, the OHCHR’s spokeswoman said, "We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists."
Providing further details on the incident, Shamdasani said the OHCHR’s investigation had found that Abu Akleh and her fellow journalists had made a concerted effort to be visible as members of the press to Israeli soldiers positioned further down the street.
“The journalists said they chose a side street for their approach to avoid the location of armed Palestinians inside the camp and that they proceeded slowly in order to make their presence visible to the Israeli forces deployed down the street,” she said.
“Our findings indicate that no warnings were issued and no shooting was taking place at that time and at that location. Several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them [the journalists] from the direction of the Israeli security forces.”
Shamdasani underlined that bullets continued to be fired at an unarmed man who tried to come to Abu Akleh’s aid, as well as a journalist who was sheltering behind a tree.
Abu Akleh, a well-known Palestinian journalist for the Qatar-based and Arabic-language Al Jazeera television news network, was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.
In video footage from the incident circulated widely online, Abu Akleh could be seen wearing a blue flak jacket marked with the word “PRESS” when being shot by Israeli troops, exposing the gruesome nature of the daylight murder.
Multiple witnesses said the Israeli forces had fatally shot the veteran Palestinian reporter, with investigations conducted by several media organizations having also come to the same conclusion.
The OHCHR head Michelle Bachelet has called on Israel to open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh's killing and into all other killings by Israeli forces in the West Bank and in the context of military operations in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, initially claimed that Palestinian gunmen could have killed Abu Akleh. However, the regime later backtracked and said it could not rule out the possibility that an Israeli soldier had fired the shot.
Tel Aviv has yet to conclude whether anyone will face criminal charges over the killing, and has avoided releasing findings from an internal investigation.