The Palestinian foreign ministry has announced it has formally asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the killing of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
On May 11, Abu Akleh, 51, was covering an Israeli military raid near the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank when she was shot dead. Eyewitnesses and colleagues who were present at the scene said she was killed by Israeli forces.
“We have documented [the crime] and submitted a file about it to the ICC prosecutor alongside other Israeli violations,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
Al-Maliki called on The Hague-based court to add Abu Akleh’s death to other crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians to facilitate an official investigation and bring Israel to accountability.
“Palestinians say the killing of Abu Akleh is war crimes indeed. They have referred the case to the ICC in addition to the dozens of other cases that have been filed over the last year or so…,” said Al Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Al Jazeera says Abu Akleh was “assassinated in cold blood” by Israeli forces. The news network and the Palestinians have called for an independent and impartial probe into the killing, which has attracted global condemnation.
Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, accused the ICC of a “double standard” in its handling of cases submitted by Palestinians.
“We have been providing information for the past 13 years but investigation has not been started yet. And in less than two months the ICC has sent 42 investigators to Ukraine,” Barghouti, a former Palestinian information minister, said.
Barghouti said that there was a need for strong international pressure on the ICC to initiate its work and investigate the crimes, including the crime of killing Shireen Abu Akleh.
“What we also need here is real pressure on Israeli establishment, a serious effort to establish sanctions and punitive acts against Israel, not to allow it to continue to be above international law.”
Hoping to get justice from the ICC
Meanwhile, Israel’s military prosecutor has called on the army to conduct an in-depth investigation.
Al Jazeera’s Ibrahim said that “this only means that the circles within the Israeli army are talking about the potential of opening an investigation.
“From our experience, it’s been very rare that the Israeli military opens investigations into killings of Palestinians and in the rare cases that it does, it almost never leads to an indictment.
“When it does lead to an indictment, the sentence is usually light and Palestinians say it’s disproportionate to the crime. That’s why they’re hoping to get justice from the ICC,” Ibrahim said.
The Israeli media reported last week that the military had no plans to launch a criminal investigation into the killing of the Al Jazeera journalist.
On Monday, the Israeli army said that if an Israeli soldier fired the lethal shot, it did not appear that the soldier was guilty of criminal misconduct.
“Given that Ms Abu Akleh was killed in the midst of an active combat zone, there can be no immediate suspicion of criminal activity absent further evidence,” said a statement citing Military Advocate Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi on Monday.
Tomer-Yerushalmi will ultimately be responsible for determining whether any individual soldier will face disciplinary action. She stressed that Israel does not yet know whether Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, was killed by stray Palestinian gunfire or by an Israeli bullet aimed at a Palestinian fighter.
“The inability to inspect the bullet, which is being held by the Palestinian Authority, continues to cast doubt on the circumstances of Ms Abu Akleh’s death,” the statement said. The army has said it had zeroed in on one incident where an Israeli soldier using “a telescopic scope” fired at a “Palestinian gunman”.
However, a new video that begins moments before the shooting shows relative calm and quiet with no sounds of fighting, corroborating witness reports that there were no clashes or “active combat zone” between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters at the time of the Al Jazeera reporter’s killing.
Israel must be held accountable
Al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, accused Israel of “exploiting the lack of accountability” by the international community to commit more violations against Palestinians.
“Israel must be held accountable for its crimes,” he said, going on to slam the “weakness and inaction of the international community” towards the Israeli violations.
“The international community contributed to creating the Palestinian cause, and it must contribute to putting an end to this suffering,” he said.
Al-Maliki cited Israeli plans to build thousands of illegal settlement units in the Palestinian area of Masafer Yatta in the southern occupied West Bank as an example of Israel’s latest violations against Palestinians.
He said the Palestinians there “are reliving the Nakba as Israel attempts to expel them from their homes”.
The Nakba, or “catastrophe”, refers to the 1948 forced expulsion of nearly 800,000 Palestinians from their homes in historical Palestine to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has urged the international community to work to resolve ignored conflicts in the world, stressing in particular the Israel-Palestine conflict, just as it has strived to address the war in Ukraine.
“The most glaring example is in Palestine, which has been an open wound since the establishment of the United Nations,” he said on Monday. “Those families have been occupied for decades with no relief in sight. The escalation in illegal settlement aggression has been relentless and the same goes for the continued attacks against the Palestinian people.”
The Qatari emir also mentioned the killing of Abu Akleh during his address in Davos.
“Her death was just as horrific as the seven journalists killed in Ukraine since March of this year, and the 18 other journalists killed in Palestine since 2000, and many other journalists killed in the line of duty in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen,” the emir said.