JERUSALEM – While Israel and the Palestinians are arguing over the investigation into the murder of Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akle, several independent groups have launched their own investigations. One open-source research group said its initial findings were supported by Palestinian witnesses who said it was killed by Israeli fire.

The results of these investigations could help shape international opinion on who is responsible for Abu Aqla’s death, especially if the official Israeli military investigation is delayed. Israel and the Palestinians are involved in a war narrative that has already put Israel in defense.

Abu Akle, a Palestinian American and 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, was killed last Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid at the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. She was a household name throughout the Arab world, known for documenting the hardships of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, which is now in its sixth decade.

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Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Sunday that he had spoken to Abu Akle’s family to express condolences and respect for her work, as well as the need for an immediate and credible investigation into “her death.”

Palestinian officials and witnesses, including journalists who were with her, say she was killed in army fire. The military, initially saying Palestinian militants could be blamed, later backed down and now say it could also have suffered from inappropriate Israeli fire.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinians, saying the bullet must be analyzed by ballistics experts to draw firm conclusions. Palestinian officials have refused, saying they do not trust Israel. Human rights groups say Israel is poorly investigating violations of its security forces.

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After announcing earlier that they would accept an external partner, the Palestinians said on Sunday evening that they would investigate alone and give results very soon.

“We have also abandoned the international investigation because we trust our capabilities as a security institution,” said Prime Minister Mohamed Steye. “We will not pass on any evidence to anyone because we know that these people are capable of falsifying the facts.” He stood with Abu Aqla’s brother, Anton, and the head of the local Al Jazeera bureau, Walid al-Amari.

When the parties argued over the Abu Akleh investigation, several research and human rights groups launched their own investigation.

Over the weekend, Bellingcat, a Dutch international consortium of researchers, published an analysis of video and audio evidence gathered on social media. The material came from both Palestinian and Israeli military sources, and the analysis looked at factors such as timestamps, video locations, shadows, and forensic audio analysis of the shots.

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The group found that while gunmen and Israeli soldiers were in the area, evidence corroborates witness testimony that Israeli fire killed Abu Akle.

“Based on what we were able to analyze, the IDF (Israeli soldiers) were in the closest position and had the clearest visibility to Abu Akleh,” said Giancarlo Fiarella, a lead researcher.

Bellingcat is one of a growing number of firms that use “open source” information, such as videos on social media, security camera recordings and satellite imagery, to reconstruct events.

Fiorella acknowledged that the analysis could not be 100% certain without evidence such as a bullet, weapons used by the military, and the GPS location of Israeli forces. But he said the emergence of additional evidence usually corroborates previous findings and almost never overturns them.

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“This is what we do when we don’t have access to these things,” he said.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said it was also conducting its own analysis. The group last week played a key role in the military’s rejection of its initial allegations that Palestinian gunmen appear to be responsible for her death.

Israeli claims were based on a video on social media in which a Palestinian shoots down Jenin Alley and then resorts to other militants who claim they shot a soldier. The army said that since none of the soldiers were injured that day, the gunmen could have meant Abu Aqla, who was wearing a helmet and body armor.

Researcher B’Tselem traveled to the area and shot a video showing Palestinian militants about 300 meters (yards) from where Abu Aqla was shot, separated by a series of walls and alleys.

A spokeswoman for the group, Dror Sadot, said B’Tselem had begun collecting eyewitness accounts and could try to restore the shooting with videos from the scene. But she said she could not yet decide who was behind the shooting.

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Sadot said any bullet should be matched to the barrel of the gun. The Palestinians refused to fire a bullet, and it is unclear whether the military confiscated the weapons they used that day.

“The bullet alone can’t say much,” because it could have been fired from either side, she said. “What you can do is pick up a bullet to the barrel,” she said.

The Israeli military did not respond to interview requests to discuss the status of its investigation.

Jonathan Conricus, a former Israeli military spokesman and military expert, said the reconstruction of the shootout in a densely populated urban area was “very difficult” and said forensic evidence, such as a bullet, was crucial to reaching solid conclusions. . He accused the Palestinian Authority of refusing to cooperate for propaganda purposes.

“Without a bullet, any investigation can only come to partial and dubious conclusions,” Conricus said. “It can be assumed that the strategy of the Palestinian Authority is this: to deny Israel the opportunity to purify its name while exploiting global sympathy for the Palestinian cause.”

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Meanwhile, Israeli police last weekend launched an investigation into the behavior of officers who attacked mourners at Abu Aqla’s funeral, with the result that grave bearers nearly dropped her coffin.

Newspapers on Sunday were filled with criticism from police and what was described as a public relations debacle.

“The shots taken on Friday are the complete opposite of prudence and patience,” commentator Oded Shalom wrote in the daily “Idiot Ahronot.” “It documented the shocking display of unbridled brutality and violence.”

Nir Hassan, who covers Jerusalem’s affairs for the daily newspaper Haaretz, said the problems are much deeper than Israel’s image.

“This was one of the most extreme visual expressions of the occupation and humiliation experienced by the Palestinian people,” he wrote.

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Associated Press authors Tia Goldenberg of Tel Aviv, Israel, and Matthew Lee of Berlin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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