A Palestinian investigation has concluded that Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqla was intentionally shot dead by an Israeli soldier.
Announcing the findings, the Palestinian attorney general said “the only shooting was by the occupation forces, with the aim of killing.”
The Israeli defence minister rejected the report, calling it “a blatant lie.”
Israel’s army is carrying out its own investigation, and has said Palestinian militants might have shot Abu Aqla.
There was widespread outrage when the 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist was shot dead while reporting on an Israeli military operation in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, on May 11.
Al Jazeera says it is referring the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as Israel’s bombing of the channel’s office in Gaza during its conflict with militant groups there in May 2021.
The ICC has the power to investigate and prosecute suspected war criminals who are not before the courts of individual states, although Israel does not recognize its authority. The Palestinian Authority says it has already referred Abu Aqla’s killing to the ICC.
Eyewitnesses say the fatal shot was fired by Israeli forces, though Israel disputes this. Israel says it has not yet been possible to establish the source of the gunfire because the Palestinians rejected its request to examine the bullet that killed Abu Aqla or to hold a joint investigation.
Israel says it has identified a soldier’s weapon that might have fired the shot, but that it cannot be certain without analysing the bullet.
At a news conference on Thursday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Attorney General Akram al-Khatib said the bullet that killed Abu Aqla was a 5.56mm round with a steel component used by NATO forces.
He said Palestinian authorities would not hand over the bullet to the Israelis, and that no photograph of it would be published. Palestinian officials have previously said they do not trust Israeli investigators.
Abu Aqla, who was wearing a protective vest with the word “Press” on it as well as a helmet, was shot in a road near where a gun-battle had taken place between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants. Her producer, Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back but survived.
Khatib said the Palestinian investigation had established that an Israeli soldier shot directly at Abu Aqla, hitting her in the head while she was trying to escape.
He said there had not been armed exchanges or stone-throwing at Abu Aqla’s location, adding that the source of fire had come from the direction of the Israeli forces.
Gunshot marks on a tree next to where she was hit were focused and contiguous, suggesting that the shooter was targeting the upper parts of the body with the intention of killing, Khatib added.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz dismissed the Palestinians’ findings.
In an interim report on its own investigation, released two weeks ago, the Israeli military said the fatal shot could have come from “massive fire from Palestinian gunmen,” or possibly from “a few bullets” fired by a soldier “at a terrorist who was firing at his vehicle.”
The Israeli military said its forces had gone into Jenin to apprehend “terrorist suspects” following a wave of deadly attacks against Israelis by Palestinians, two of whom came from the Jenin district.
Abu Aqla was one of the region’s most experienced and admired correspondents. She had reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Al Jazeera’s Arabic news channel for two decades.