The military advocate general, Brig. Gen. Avi Mendelblit, closed on Wednesday the investigation into the death of Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana during an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip several months ago.
The 23-year-old Palestinian employed by the British news agency was killed by tank fire while filming Israeli troops on a heavy day of fighting on April 17th.
Mendelblit determined that the conduct of the tank crew, who erroneously identified Shana as an armed gunman, was not out of line with procedure. None of the implicated soldiers will stand trial.
The last moments of footage recorded by Shana capture the image of a tank stationed several hundred feet away from the border fence firing. Two seconds later the film is cut off.
"The tank crew was unable to determine the nature of the object mounted on the tripod and positively identify it as an anti-tank missile, a mortar or a television camera," Mendelblit wrote.
He further cited an attack that killed three IDF soldiers in another part of the enclave earlier in the day, a separate grenade attack on a tank, the fact that Shana and his soundman who was wounded were wearing body armour - "common to Palestinian terrorists" - among reasons for suspicion.
"In light of the reasonable conclusion reached by the tank crew and its superiors that the characters were hostile and were carrying an object most likely to be a weapon, the decision to fire at the targets was sound," Mendelblit wrote, adding that while there was no doubt that Fadel's death was a tragedy there was no evidence to suggest "misconduct or criminal misbehaviour."
The Reuters news agency said in response to Mendelblit's decision that it was "deeply disturbed by a
conclusion that severely curtails the freedom of the media to cover the conflict by effectively giving soldiers a free hand to kill without being sure they were not firing on journalists."
Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger said: "I'm extremely disappointed that this report condones a disproportionate use of deadly force in a situation the army itself admitted had not been analysed clearly.
The agency maintains Shana was wearing a blue flak jacket marked with 'press,' as was the armored vehicle driven by the reporters. It also asserted that gunmen in Gaza are "rarely" seen wearing flak jackets.
Five other Palestinians were also killed in the attack, according to Gaza medics, including four teenagers.
Reuters contributed to this report