Abbas threatens to turn to ICC over Al Jazeera reporter's killing

Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas said he will go to the International Criminal Court to "punish the criminals" for her death.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bids farewell to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during a live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, in Ramallah in the West Bank May 12, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bids farewell to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during a live fire exchange between Palestinians and IDF, in Ramallah in the West Bank May 12, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMAD TOROKMAN)

The Palestinian Authority stood firm on its refusal to hold a joint investigation with Israel into the shooting death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, whose funeral procession made its way Thursday from Ramallah to Jerusalem.

“We have rejected a joint investigation with the Israeli authorities because they are the ones who committed the crime,” said PA President Mahmoud Abbas as he eulogized Abu Akleh at a state memorial ceremony in Ramallah.

Her flag-draped coffin, adorned with a wreath and a rose, was laid out in front of him in the courtyard of the Mukata. At one point a flak jacket with the word “press” was also placed on her coffin.

Abbas pledged to seek justice by “immediately going to the International Criminal Court to prosecute the criminals” responsible for Abu Akleh’s death.

 Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks during a meeting with journalists in the West Bank cityof Ramallah on July 03, 2019. (credit: FLASH90) Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas speaks during a meeting with journalists in the West Bank cityof Ramallah on July 03, 2019. (credit: FLASH90)

He said Abu Akleh was a “martyr of Palestine” and a symbol for Palestinian journalists and women, who used her “honest” and “patriotic” voice to portray the suffering of her people.

Clashes broke out after the ceremony at certain points along the procession’s route as it made its way to Jerusalem, where Abu Akleh will be buried on Friday. Police are braced for additional violence in the city as a result of the funeral.

While Palestinians mourned the death of a media icon, the stiff argument between Israel and the PA continued as to who was responsible for Abu Akleh’s death, and the process of how that probe would take place.

Abu Akleh was fatally shot by sniper fire on Wednesday while covering an IDF raid in Jenin, during which there was an exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen.

Israel has speculated that a Palestinian sniper fired the shot, while the PA has insisted that it was an IDF bullet.

Prior to the funeral, the PA confirmed that it will not allow Israel to examine the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, even though it is one of the steps needed to determine culpability in her death.

According to Channel 12, Israel has also asked the Palestinians to hand over the helmet that Abu Akleh was wearing when the bullet struck her.

“Israel has requested a joint investigation and to be handed over [sic] the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen, we refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently,” Palestinian Authority Minister and General Authority of Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh tweeted on Thursday morning.

Abu Akleh, who is from east Jerusalem, also held US citizenship. The Biden administration, as well as the European Union and the UN, have called for an investigation into her death. Israel Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog told KAN News that the Biden administration may want to participate in that probe.

“We will inform her family, #USA, #Qatar and all official authorities and the public of the results of the investigation with high transparency,” Sheikh tweeted. “All of the indicators, the evidence and the witnesses confirm her assassination by #Israeli special units.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s foreign media adviser Karen Hajioff said Abu Akleh’s death was a “tragedy,” in an English language video she posted on Twitter on Thursday.

“She was an experienced journalist whom many of my own colleagues use to work with.... We have to get to the bottom of what happened, to find the truth and only the truth,” Hajioff stated.

“Why,” she wanted to know, “are the Palestinians rejecting a joint investigation?.... What exactly are they trying to hide?” she asked.

On Wednesday the director of the Palestinian Forensic Institute conducted an initial autopsy and said the results were inconclusive, she explained.

“Without any concrete evidence, hasty accusations against Israel that are being made right now are misleading and irresponsible. I call on all parties to refrain from disrupting or contaminating the investigation,” she said.

 picture of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli army gunfire during an Israeli raid, according to the Qatar-based news channel, is displayed in Al-Jazeera headquarter building in Doha, Qatar, May 11, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/IMAD CREIDI) picture of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli army gunfire during an Israeli raid, according to the Qatar-based news channel, is displayed in Al-Jazeera headquarter building in Doha, Qatar, May 11, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/IMAD CREIDI)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz had reached out to the PA in the hours after her death and offered to hold a joint investigation.

A senior security official said that “out of transparency,” Israel offered to have a PA and Israeli representative present during the forensic examination of the bullet, already known to be a 5.56mm caliber used both by the IDF and Palestinian gunmen.

The IDF confirmed that troops from the Duvdevan commando unit were located 150 m. from Abu Akleh.

While a few dozen bullets were fired by IDF troops toward specific targets, head of the Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs told Channel 12 News on Wednesday night that there were thousands of bullets fired by assailants during the firefights.

According to reports, there were at least three locations of clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin on Wednesday morning.

Army Radio’s military and security correspondent Amir Bar-Shalom said on Thursday that the IDF questioned all of the soldiers who were in the area at the time, and physically mapped out where they were at the moment the bullet struck Abu Akleh.

According to a preliminary report, none of the snipers shot toward any particular target, he said. Proof of this, said Bar-Shalom, is that there were no armed Palestinians who were hurt.

Following Abu Akleh’s death, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi vowed to fully investigate the incident “using all the tools at our disposal in order to arrive at the truth.” He appointed Commando Brigade head Col. Meni Liberty to lead the investigation.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price told journalists in Washington on Thursday that it was important that any investigation “be thorough, that it be comprehensive, that it be transparent, and importantly, that the investigations end with full accountability and those responsible for her death being held responsible for their actions.”