A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said her office had conducted a “monitoring” – not a full investigation – collecting information from witnesses, experts and official communications, as well as photos, video and audio materials from the scene.
Its findings indicate that the bullets that killed Abu Uqla and wounded his colleague “came from the Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate shooting by Palestinian gunmen.”
“We have not found any information indicating the presence of Palestinian militants in the immediate vicinity of the journalists,” Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.
“It is very disturbing that the Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation,” she said. Shamdasani said the bureau’s monitoring could not determine the “intent” in the case, and only a criminal investigation could do so.
Israel has long rejected the findings of UN bodies, accusing them of bias. Defense Minister Benny Gantz said a comprehensive and lead analysis of the bullet – which is being held by the Palestinian Authority – could determine whether the bullet was fired by Israeli or Palestinian militants.
A reconstruction of the Associated Press shooting found that Israeli forces likely fired the fatal shot, but no conclusive conclusion could have been made without further evidence. Subsequent investigations by CNN, the New York Times and The Washington Post also found that Israeli forces likely fired the fatal shot.
Israel has vehemently denied allegations by Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority that Abu Okla was deliberately targeted. The Israeli authorities say they have not opened a criminal investigation because they have not yet determined who fired the fatal shot.
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters, refused to surrender the bullet. It rejected any Israeli role in the investigation and accused it of trying to conceal its responsibility.
The UN human rights office said Abu Okla and her crew moved slowly “to make their presence visible to the Israeli forces,” who were deployed about 200 meters (yards) along a straight and narrow road.
“Several single shots were fired, apparently well aimed at (correspondents) from the direction of the Israeli security forces,” Shamdasani said. One bullet killed Abu Uqla “on the spot” and another wounded her colleague, Ali al-Samudi.
The Associated Press found that the closest confirmed presence of Palestinian militants was on the other side of the Israeli forces, another 100 meters or so, and they had no line of sight for reporters.
A wave of Palestinian attacks earlier this year targeting Israelis killed 19 people. Israel has carried out almost daily raids across the West Bank, which it says are aimed at preventing further attacks. Many of the attackers came from Jenin, which was the focus of those operations.
Dozens of Palestinians were killed during those operations, most of whom allegedly opened fire on Israeli forces or threw stones or Molotov cocktails at them. Among the dead were apparently two passers-by.
Associated Press writer Joseph Krause in Jerusalem contributed to this report.