The Palestinian Authority asks Israel to hand over the rifle that may have killed the journalist Abu Akleh

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh demanded on Sunday that Israel hand over a rifle to the Palestinian Authority suspected of being involved in the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

“We demand that they hand over the rifle that murdered Shireen Abu Akleh,” Shtayyeh said in a ceremony that marked 40 days since the journalist’s death under controversial circumstances in Jenin.

While both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are conducting separate investigations into Abu Akleh’s death, ballistic analysis that matches bullet and gun is probably the only definitive way to prove whether an Israeli soldier killed Abu Akleh.

Israeli military officials said they identified a gun that could have fired the shot that killed Abu Akleh, but that confirmation would require ballistic analysis to match the gun to the bullet. Ramallah refused Israeli calls to conduct a joint investigation or hand over the bullet to Israel.

“We have refused a joint investigation, because whoever has invented the story of a people, stealing land and homeland, can invent a narrative. We don’t trust them, ”Shtayyeh said.

American officials have asked both sides to conclude the investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. In comments to The Times of Israel, a White House official said Washington hopes Ramallah will share the results of its investigation with Israel.

Yellow tape marks bullet holes in a tree and a portrait and flowers create an impromptu memorial at the place where Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead in Jenin city, in the West Bank, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo / Majdi Mohammed)

Abu Akleh, 51, was shot dead while following an Israeli military raid in Jenin in mid-May along with a team of other journalists. During the raid, a fire fight broke out between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen. At one point, Abu Akleh was shot in the head.

The video of the scene did not show any Palestinian gunmen close to the Palestinian journalists. Moments earlier, Palestinian journalists can be seen joking and chatting easily before the bullets sound, killing Abu Akleh.

The veteran Al Jazeera journalist was a familiar face to millions of viewers across the Arab world. An American citizen holding an Israeli-issued East Jerusalem ID card, Abu Akleh was widely regarded as a pioneering correspondent for both women and Palestinians. His death shocked the Palestinians and sparked an international outcry.

The Palestinian Authority, which conducted its own investigation, immediately accused the Israeli soldiers of the murder. Forensic evidence and eyewitness accounts proved Abu Akleh was fleeing when she was deliberately targeted and killed by Israeli troops, according to AP Chief Prosecutor Akram Khatib.

The Israeli authorities dismissed the PA’s findings as false and continued with their own investigation into the incident.

“Any claims that the IDF intentionally targets journalists or uninvolved people [in terror] it’s a crude and blatant lie, “Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement at the time.

Israel initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for the shooting, but later acknowledged that Abu Akleh could also have been killed by Israeli soldiers. The military has yet to open a criminal investigation into the shooting.

“Given that Abu Akleh was killed in the middle of an active combat zone, there can be no immediate suspicions of criminal activity in the absence of further evidence,” Israeli army prosecutor Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi said in a statement.

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