The Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV channel on Tuesday presented what it called detailed evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, proving that the Israel Defense Forces deliberately shot its journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. during clashes in the West Bank in May.
In a statement, Al Jazeera said it “will today submit the case of the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli occupying forces to the International Criminal Court”, adding that its journalists and legal team will hold a conference release in the Dutch city alongside “members of Shireen’s family and leading journalists and human rights experts.”
An AFP reporter saw a lawyer representing the Al Jazeera case enter the ICC headquarters to hand over the channel’s file.
Abu Akleh’s family filed a formal complaint with the ICC in September. The court prosecutor’s office will likely determine whether to open an investigation into the case.
After the complaint in September, the IDF told The Times of Israel it rejected the claim that Abu Akleh was intentionally shot and said opening a new investigation would be “biased and misleading.”
The 51-year-old journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed in clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering a military operation in the Jenin refugee camp, in the northern West Bank on May 11. amid a broader IDF terror crackdown, according to the official account provided by the IDF.
While the Israeli military conducted its own investigation and acknowledged that the bullet that killed her was “most likely” fired from an IDF firearm, it strongly rejected claims that the veteran journalist was deliberately targeted.
Al Jazeera’s new information was released in a documentary on Thursday, including video evidence allegedly showing that at least one Israeli soldier intentionally targeted a group of journalists that included Palestinian-American Abu Akleh, and that she was not the victim of errant fire in a shootout between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen as claimed by the IDF.
“The new testimonies and video footage clearly show that Shireen and his colleagues were directly targeted by the Israeli occupation forces,” Al Jazeera said in its statement on Tuesday. “The Israeli authorities’ claim that Shireen was mistakenly killed in an exchange of fire is completely unfounded.”
The new evidence “confirms, beyond doubt, that there was no shooting in the area where Shireen was, other than the [IDF] shooting directly at him,” the Anti-Israel Network said. “The journalists were in full view of the [IDF] as they walked slowly in a group down the road in their distinctive media vests, and there was no one else on the road.
Al Jazeera argued that the IDF’s findings are “entirely undermined” by the new evidence, saying “this deliberate killing was part of a larger campaign to target and silence Al Jazeera.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid reacted to the statement saying, “No one will interrogate IDF soldiers and no one will lecture us on combat ethics, certainly not Al Jazeera.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is also expected to be replaced in the coming weeks, said: “I regret the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, but we must remember that this was a clear combat incident. which has been probed in the most rigorous and rigorous way. thorough, and I advise various organizations, as well as Al Jazeera, to go and check what is happening to journalists in Iran and in the area from which Al Jazeera broadcasts.
“No army acts with a work ethic like the IDF and I want to stress my full support, and that of the entire security establishment, to the commanders and soldiers who act to defend the citizens of ‘Israel,” Gantz added.
Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party who is set to become police minister in the next government, has called for the expulsion of Al Jazeera from Israel.
“Al Jazeera not only covers [events] in an anti-Semitic manner, distorts the truth and publishes lies – this also acts against the State of Israel worldwide,” he said in a statement. “This propaganda network should be expelled from the country and not allowed to continue its series of anti-Israel lies.
In contrast, the left-wing human rights group Yesh Din welcomed Al Jazeera’s decision, accusing Israel of necessitating an international investigation by neglecting to open an internal criminal investigation into the killing.
“From the first moment, Israel’s conduct has shown that the only way to get to the bottom of the Shireen Abu Akleh case is to open an independent international investigation that will lead to a fair, effective and justified investigation into the incident.”
In 2021, the ICC decided that it had jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel, which is not a member of the Rome Statute of the ICC, rejected the decision.
The Abu Akleh family criticized the IDF’s internal investigation, saying the military “tried to obscure the truth and avoid responsibility” for the killing.
Rights groups say Israeli investigations into Palestinian shooting deaths often drag on for months or years before being quietly closed and soldiers are rarely held accountable.
Last month, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it was opening an investigation into Abu Akleh’s death. Israel said it would not cooperate with the investigation.
Gantz insisted that the claim, also made by the Palestinian Authority, that Israel deliberately targeted Abu Akleh is a “blatant lie”. Gantz also said last month that the FBI investigation was unnecessary. Lapid criticized the US decision to investigate the incident, vowing not to allow IDF soldiers to be “questioned by the FBI or by any foreign body or foreign country, however friendly.”
The decision on an FBI investigation represented a U-turn, after US President Joe Biden’s administration insisted for months that it would not open its own investigation, relying instead on investigations carried out by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. The United States had so far appeared to accept the Israeli conclusion.
AFP contributed to this report.