Israel on Thursday confirmed the arrest of one of the pallbearers of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, as the army said the investigation into her killing remained “ongoing”.
Abu Akleh was shot dead during an Israeli army raid in the West Bank last week.
Palestinians and the TV network said Israeli troops killed her, while Israel said she may have been killed by Palestinian gunfire or a stray shot from an Israeli soldier.
Following an Israeli media report that no criminal charges against any soldiers would be pursued over the May 11 clashes in Jenin that surrounded Abu Akleh’s death, the army told reporters no such determination had been made.
“A decision regarding the necessity of (a criminal) investigation will be determined by the Military Advocacy, in accordance with the findings of the still-ongoing operational inquiry,” an army statement said.
The army said Friday that its investigation into the possibility that Israeli fire killed Abu Akleh was focused on a single incident.
“During the exchange of fire between the Palestinian gunmen and (Israeli) soldiers, a soldier fired a few bullets from a designated firing hole in an (army) vehicle using a telescopic scope at a Palestinian gunman who was shooting at the aforementioned vehicle,” an interim army report into Abu Akleh’s death said.
“The Palestinian gunman fired multiple barrages of gunfire at the (Israeli) soldier, and there is the possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh, who was near the Palestinian gunman from behind, was hit by the soldier’s fire toward the Palestinian gunmen. The distance between the (Israeli) vehicle and Ms. Abu Akleh was approximately 200 meters,” the report said.
The army has urged the Palestinian Authority to share the bullet extracted from Abu Akleh, insisting that it could lead to a definitive conclusion.
“A professional ballistics test may be able to determine,” whether the Israeli weapon fired in the above incident delivered the fatal shot.
– ‘Scandalous’ funeral raid –
In a raid that has sparked international outrage, baton-wielding Israeli police beat several pallbearers as they carried the Abu Akleh’s coffin out of a hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem on Friday.
A lawyer for pallbearer Amro Abu Khudeir told AFP that his client had been arrested and questioned over his role at the funeral.
According to the lawyer, Khaldoun Najm, Israel also claimed to have “a secret file on (Khudeir’s) membership of a terrorist organisation”.
“I think they will arrest more young men who participated in the funeral,” Najm said.
“For them, the subject of the funeral and the coffin was scandalous.”
Police dismissed any link between the funeral and Khudeir’s arrest.
“We are witnessing an attempt to produce a conspiracy that is fundamentally incorrect,” a statement said.
“The suspect was arrested as part of an ongoing investigation which contrary to allegations, had nothing to do with his participation in the funeral procession.”
Police justifications for the raid at St. Joseph’s hospital have varied.
They have cited the need to stamp out “nationalistic” chants and also said that “rioters” among the mourners hurled projectiles at officers.
Israeli forces frequently crack down on displays of Palestinian identity, including the national flag, one of which was draped over Abu Akleh’s coffin.
Police have vowed to investigate the controversial incident.
© Agence France-Presse