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Gunfire that killed Palestinian-American journalist likely came from Israeli military positions, U.S. says

The bullet that killed an American journalist in the Palestinian city of Jenin in May likely came from Israeli military positions, but its exact origin could not be determined and the shooting was most likely unintentional, according to a third-party analysis overseen by U.S. officials.

The “extremely detailed forensic analysis” could not reach a “definitive conclusion” regarding who shot the Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, State Department officials said in a statement on Monday. Experts said the bullet was badly damaged, preventing a clear conclusion.

Since Akleh’s death on May 11, tension has mounted over who should be held accountable. Multiple independent investigations have found support for witnesses’ accounts that Israeli military forces killed the journalist, who was wearing identifiable press gear and a helmet while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank city for the news outlet Al Jazeera. Israeli officials have repeatedly denied the military’s involvement in the shooting.

Though the bullet’s origin could not be determined, the U.S. security coordinator, who oversaw the analysis, “concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” the State Department statement said, referring to the Israel Defense Forces. The coordinator was granted access to both Israeli and Palestinian investigations.

During the analysis, the coordinator “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances” during an Israeli-led military operation “against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad … which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel,” officials wrote.

The findings come shortly before President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East, where he’ll visit Israeli officials to affirm the two countries’ “unbreakable bond” and work to “deepen Israel’s integration to the region … which is good for peace and good for Israeli security,” the president said at a news conference in Madrid on Thursday.

“The United States appreciates and continues to encourage cooperation between Israel and the [Palestinian Authority] in this important case,” officials said, pledging to remain engaged with the issue “on the next steps and urge accountability.”