Jul 2, 2022 - World

Palestinians hand over bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh to U.S.

A person holds a sign with the picture of Shireen Abu Akleh at a protest in London on May 12. Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty Images

A person holds a sign with the picture of Shireen Abu Akleh at a protest in London on May 12. Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday gave the bullet the killed Palestinian American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to U.S. security coordinator Lt. Gen. Mike Fenzel, senior Israeli officials told Axios.

Driving the news: The Palestinian attorney general told Al Jazeera that the Palestinian Authority decided to hand over the bullet to the U.S. in order to do a ballistics test to see if it matches the guns that were used by Israeli soldiers on May 11 in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, where Abu Akleh was killed.

  • Israeli officials said they expect the results of the ballistics test will be ready on Sunday.
  • The State Department declined to comment.

Background: Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin. She was wearing a bulletproof vest marked "press."

  • Both Israeli and Palestinian officials have conducted their own investigations of the May 11 incident.
  • The Israel military operational investigation determined that there was a possibility that Abu Akleh was shot by an Israeli soldier, but it was not possible to determine who fired the fatal shot without a without a ballistics test of the bullet against the guns that were used by the soldiers in the area. It said that if an Israeli soldier did shoot her, it was not intentional.
  • The Palestinian investigation determined that Israeli soldiers killed Abu Akleh.
  • Citing witnesses, as well as visual and audio evidence, independent investigations by several news organizations, including the Washington Post, AP and the New York Times, found that it was likely an Israeli soldier fired the fatal shot. A probe conducted by the UN human rights body came to a similar conclusion.

Behind the scenes: In the last five weeks, the Biden administration has pressed the Palestinians to hand over the bullet, U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios. 

  • After refusing for weeks, the Palestinians in recent days signaled they might be willing to change course.
  • On Thursday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke on the phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and asked him again to give the bullet to the U.S., a State Department official said.

The big picture: The White House and State Department, who are under political pressure from members of Congress over the Abu Akleh case, appear to want to be able to make some kind of breakthrough in the investigation before President Biden's visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank on July 13.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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