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Israel PM backs soldier who killed journo Abu Akleh, rules out prosecution

A mural depicting slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is illuminated with headlights on a street in the Israeli-occupied city of Umm al-Fahm, on September 5, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid has come out in full support of the soldier who shot dead Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May, saying the regime’s forces have the “full backing” of Tel Aviv, turning a deaf ear to international calls for punishment of those behind the cold-blooded murder.

Lapid claimed on Wednesday that the Israeli soldier behind the killing of Abu Akleh — who was wearing a vest clearly marked “Press” when she was shot — was “protecting himself” during exchanges of fire with Palestinians.

He said he would not allow the soldier to “be prosecuted just to receive applause from abroad.”

“No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us,” he said, adding that Israeli soldiers have the full backing of the regime and the Israelis.

Lapid was reacting to an Israeli military report that conceded for the first time that Abu Akleh, a US-Palestinian citizen, was likely shot by an Israeli soldier. 

Abu Akleh was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin,

On Monday, the Israeli military announced that its investigations into the case concluded that Abu Akleh was likely shot “unintentionally” by an Israeli soldier who had mistaken her for a fighter.

“There is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by [Israeli military] gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen,” said the military report.

The military report also added that troops conducting operations in Jenin had come under heavy fire from all sides and had fired back, including towards the area where Abu Akleh was standing about 200 meters from their position, but claimed that they had not been able to identify her as a journalist.

This is while a United Nations investigation concluded in June that there was “no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by” when Abu Akleh was shot.

Initially, the regime’s military insisted that it was impossible to determine the source of the deadly shot that killed the celebrated journalist.

In the immediate aftermath of her killing, the Zionist regime even claimed that she could have been shot by a Palestinian gunman.

Abu Akleh was one of the most recognizable faces reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for two decades. Her death triggered outrage across the world and led to calls for an independent investigation.

The Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh. Palestinian authorities and Al Jazeera, of which Abu Akleh was a staff member, see the findings of Israeli investigations as unreliable and call for an international probe.

The Abu Akleh family said that Israel had “refused to take responsibility for the murder” of the journalist.

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