The Israeli military released on Monday the final conclusions of its probe into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, determining that the Al Jazeera reporter was likely killed by an Israeli stray bullet.
According to the findings of the probe into the fatal shooting, the military said "it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit Ms. Abu Akleh. However, there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward IDF soldiers."
Abu Akleh was shot and killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. During the operation, clashes erupted between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in a densely populated area, with the sides exchanging fire for almost an hour, during which the reporter was caught in the crossfire.
The IDF emphasized in its report that troops were firing throughout the entire incident "with the intent of neutralizing the terrorists who shot at IDF soldiers, also from the area in which Ms. Shireen Abu Akleh was present."
However, the report did not rule out the possibility Abu Akleh was hit by Palestinian gunfire, which it described as "widespread and indiscriminate."
The raid came as part of an extensive Israeli crackdown on Palestinian terrorist activity throughout the West Bank, dubbed Operation Breakwater, which was prompted by a series of Palestinian attacks that left 19 Israelis dead earlier this year.
Over the duration of the months-long operation, Israeli forces have made hundreds of arrests and seized arms and funds believed to be used to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis.
In June, the IDF beefed up its investigative efforts into Abu Akleh's death after an interim report failed to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire that killed the reporter.
As part of the investigation, the soldiers involved in the incident were questioned, and chronological analysis of the course of events, examination of the sound from the scene of the incident in real-time, analysis of the scene of the incident and the area in particular, which included a detailed simulation, were conducted.
However, the report noted that upon examining the findings, the Military Prosecution found "no suspicion of a criminal offense that justifies the opening of a Military Police investigation."
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi called Abu Akleh's death "a devastating incident" that took place during "operational activity intended to prevent Palestinian terrorism, which calls for the harming of Israeli civilians."
"The journalist was present in the area during an exchange of fire that lasted for almost an hour. At that time, armed Palestinian gunmen shot wild and indiscriminate gunfire toward IDF soldiers and in every direction, endangering their lives. The IDF operates in immensely complex areas at a professional and high-quality level every night, while taking actions to avoid harming non-combatants," a statement read."
"The IDF takes great efforts to this end while working to allow press coverage. The Palestinian terrorists hide and operate from within the local population, endangering their lives on an ongoing basis. This is an immense challenge for the IDF, but it is our professional and moral duty to stop and prevent terrorism, as well as achieving our goal - to defend Israeli civilians and the State of Israel," the statement said.