The United States said Tuesday that experts on its own team investigated the bullet that killed journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, after Palestinians cried foul that Israel was not directly blamed.
The State Department said Monday that the prominent Al-Jazeera journalist was likely shot from an Israeli position as she covered an operation in the occupied West Bank on May 11 but that there was no evidence the killing was intentional and that the bullet was too damaged for a conclusive finding.
The Palestinian Authority had reluctantly handed over the bullet to the United States and said it was not giving it to Israel, fearing a whitewash. But on Monday, the Israeli army said in a statement that Israeli experts had done forensic analysis on the bullet in a laboratory in the Jewish state.
State Department spokesman Ned Price insisted that the examination was carried out by two members on the team of the US Security Coordinator (USSC), which liaises with the Palestinian Authority on security assistance.
He did not identify the experts by name or nationality, noting that non-Americans were on the staff, but said they had "a combined 42 years of experience."
"Local experts, whether they were Israeli or Palestinian, did not conduct the USSC examination of the bullet," Price said.
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"The USSC had full custody of the bullet from the moment it was provided by the PA (Palestinian Authority) to the USSC until the moment it was returned by the USSC to the PA," he said.
Price said the United States sought accountability but stopped short of recommending that Israel launch a criminal case. The Israeli Defense Forces say they are still probing the death.
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"As a professional military force, the IDF... is in a position to consider steps to see to it that something like this can't happen again," Price said.
Senior Palestinian officials accused the United States of covering up the truth and the family of Abu Akleh -- who held US citizenship -- said it was "incredulous" that the examination could not determine whose gun fired the bullet.