Israel’s shifting narratives on the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh


The Israeli government and military narrative on the May 11 killing of Al Jazeera’s veteran Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has shifted numerous times over the past few months.

Witnesses, including Al Jazeera journalists, immediately said Israeli forces had carried out the shooting in Jenin, a claim that was backed up by numerous investigations by media outlets, human rights organisations, and the United Nations.

Yet Israel has sought to evade responsibility, most recently announcing on Monday that a military investigation had concluded that it was “highly possible” that one of its soldiers had fired the bullet that killed Abu Akleh. However, the military ruled out further investigation, saying they found no suspicion of a criminal offence.

That position marks a shift from previous Israeli narratives around the killing, which say several different versions of what happened given.

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Here is a timeline of Israel’s shifting narrative:

‘The Palestinians did it’

In the immediate aftermath of Abu Akleh’s killing, Israel’s foreign ministry and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett pointed the finger at armed Palestinian fighters as the “likely” perpetrators.

“According to the information we have gathered, it appears likely that armed Palestinians – who were firing indiscriminately at the time – were responsible for the unfortunate death of the journalist,” Bennett tweeted.

The prime minister’s office even tweeted a video of Palestinian gunmen shooting in the refugee camp to back up their claims. The video was debunked within hours by Israeli human rights group B’tselem, who said the gunmen were in an entirely different part of the camp, and that no Palestinian fighter was in the vicinity of where Abu Akleh and her colleagues had gathered.

Israel then offered to conduct a joint investigation into the killing with the Palestinian Authority, which the latter rejected outright.

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