Biting the bullet
New explosive testimony about the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh must be followed up
The US State Department said on Monday that it could not reach a definitive conclusion about who was responsible for killing the Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, in a firefight between the Israel Defence Forces and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin last May.
After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the US Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.
In addition to the forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC was granted full access to both Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations over the last several weeks. By summarising both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.
Two things were notable about this statement. The first was that, even though the State Department couldn’t establish who had killed Abu Akleh, it stated it was “most likely” that the IDF was responsible. But since neither the PA nor the IDF investigations to which the statement referred had reached any conclusion either, their reports were no more than speculation.
Having reached no definitive conclusion from reading these two inconclusive reports which had failed to establish responsibility, the State Department nevertheless pinned the “likely” responsibility on the IDF. This baseless statement was malevolent, created in the full knowledge that this was what would be headlined by the venomous anti-Israel media (whose own deeply tendentious and distorted claims about this have been exposed here, here, here, here and here ).
The second notable thing, however, was much more significant. The statement said that the bullet was “badly damaged”. How could this have been? This was allegedly the bullet that had entered Abu Akleh’s neck or head and killed her. So how could this bullet have been damaged? Given that the Palestinian Authority had for weeks refused to hand over for objective inspection the bullet that had killed her, was this “damage” not intensely suspicious?
No-one in the media saw fit to ask this elementary question. But in Israel, some were not only asking — but apparently discovering the answer.
Precisely who inspected the bullet, which the PA refused to show the Israelis but eventually handed over to the Americans for analysis, has been a source of controversy. On Monday, the Israeli army said in a statement that Israeli experts had done forensic analysis on the bullet in an Israeli laboratory. Two days previously, IDF spokesman Ron Kochav claimed that, after the bullet was transferred to the US embassy in Jerusalem, US officials would merely be observing the Israeli analysis of the bullet.
The State Department insisted in response that the examination was carried out by two members on the team of the US Security Co-ordinator. Its spokesman Ned Price said:
Local experts, whether they were Israeli or Palestinian, did not conduct the USSC examination of the bullet. The USSC had full custody of the bullet from the moment it was provided by the PA to the USSC until the moment it was returned by the USSC to the PA.
American sensitivity on this matter may be related to the impending visit to the region by US President Joe Biden and his ongoing courtship of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, Price’s very carefully chosen words left open the suggestion that the bullet had been examined by both American and Israeli analysts.
Now a renowned Israeli ballistics expert, physicist Nahum Shahaf, has made an explosive claim. On Arutz Sheva, Shimon Cohen reports:
Shahaf points out that “the bullet underwent a severe transformation at the hands of a hammer that created a deep depression in its back, which cannot be formed by the projectile's movement alone”…
According to him, the tests performed on the bullet were administered by technicians and engineers who usually deal with standard tests similar to those performed in the forensic field. “While there are some world-class experts at their forensics labs, most of the staff are your everyday practitioners so you can't expect them to be equipped to deal with these kinds of complex issues,” he states.
“I conducted an experiment that made it possible to restore the original bullet. I've been advised by an expert source in the IDF but can't reveal his findings before he fully authorises them himself,” says Shahaf. At the same time, he insists that just about anyone can tell that the PA’s claims are entirely manufactured.
“The [PA] claimed that Shireen was shot by a Roger rifle, a sniper rifle used by the IDF, a 0.22-LR-type which employs reduced energy and power, and is considered non-lethal at a distance of over 100 meters. In this case, however, the bullet not only penetrated her spine but completely dismantled her lower jaw. I have seen the horrible image of what happened to her. The Roger rifle could not have done that. This is a rifle known to be non-lethal at such distances, and certainly could not have destroyed her face like that. A wound like that requires a very strong bullet moving at a very fast pace.”
The obvious conclusion for Shahaf is that: “the bullet was fired from a different and [more] powerful gun. The Palestinians themselves were quoted as saying that the bullet came from a Roger rifle,” he insists.
Regarding alterations made to the bullet prior to the PA allowing foreign experts to analyse it, Shahaf says he can detect streaks of crushing as well as an internal depression, which can only be produced by a hammer of enormous weight. The squeezing in question was performed on the back of the bullet and not its front, which smashes on impact…
Shahaf concludes that Abu Aqleh “must have been shot from a heavy rifle like the Kalashnikov”. He avoids making a determination that the weapon used was indeed a Kalashnikov, however, so long as it hasn't been tested using IDF equipment. He says that a very senior IDF expert has taken upon himself to analyse the bullet and has already received the necessary materials to carry out the investigation.
Shahaf is an authoritative source. It was he whose analysis of the “killing” of Mohammed al Dura prompted Israel to conduct an inquiry which found that claim was a modern-day blood libel.
In 2000 a French TV station, France 2, transmitted footage of a demonstration at the Netzarim junction purporting to show the 12 year-old al Dura clinging to his father under a sustained hail of Israeli bullets before slumping and being declared dead.
The image of him clinging to his father was the recruiting sergeant for countless acts of Arab and Islamic terrorist murder around the world and the further demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel. Yet as I reported here, in 2007 I watched footage that France 2 had chosen not to transmit — that showed the child had not been killed at all and was unharmed. And indeed years earlier Nahum Shahaf, a physicist in Israel’s defence establishment, had himself concluded that al Dura had not been killed at Netzarim and the whole thing had been a theatrical set-up.
Shahaf’s observations about the bullet that reputedly killed Shireen Abu Akleh are highly significant. Any western journalist worthy of the name would leap to follow this up.
Let’s see what now happens, eh.
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