Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British military forces in Afghanistan, spoke to Israel National News on Thursday about the report by CNN accusing IDF soldiers of deliberately targeting Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, who was killed during a shootout with terrorists in Jenin earlier this month.
Col. Kemp criticized CNN's conclusions, stating that the report contains "zero credible evidence" to back them up.
"In my view, the CNN report is rife with highly questionable assertions from their experts. Many of their assessments that suggest unequivocally that an IDF sniper deliberately targeted the journalist are very much open to question and in some cases could suggest the opposite of what they are saying. Equally, reliance on eye-witness statements in such an environment and presenting them as fact shows a lack of understanding or a simple desire to incriminate the IDF. In short, CNN produce zero credible evidence to support their inflammatory conclusion," he said,
"With my knowledge of the IDF, I do not believe it is likely that an IDF sniper deliberately targeted the journalist. Accidental killing by an IDF soldier is a possibility, as is the possibility that she was deliberately or accidentally killed by a Palestinian gunman. I have no doubt that if the IDF conclude from evidence available to them that she was killed by their soldiers that they will make this public and if appropriate bring charges against the individuals concerned. However, in the absence of conclusive video evidence or reliable witness statements, unless the bullet is produced by the PA and matched to the gun that fired it, we are unlikely ever to gain evidence as to who killed the journalist," He added.
"Nothing I have read in the CNN report suggests to me that an IDF soldier killed the journalist. Having reviewed the publicly known facts, including what CNN have reported, I continue to believe that she could have been killed by an IDF soldier or a Palestinian gunman.
"It is irresponsible of a news organization to produce such a flimsy and questionable report and publish it as hard evidence against Israel. This amounts to anti-Israel propaganda that will undoubtedly be used to incite violence against Israelis as well as antisemitic hate around the world," Col. Kemp concluded.
Israel has dismissed the CNN report. An IDF spokes person told Maariv: "Since the incident occurred, the IDF has been investigating and clarifying the circumstances of the journalist’s death in an in-depth and thorough manner. The intermediate investigation that was publicized found that it is not possible to determine the source of fire that … killed the journalist."
“The claim that the gunfire was targeted lacks any basis,” the spokesperson added.
Yesterday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog was questioned about the killing of Abu Aqleh at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
"This is, of course, a very unfortunate incident, one which pains me and many Israelis," Herzog said. "The incident occurred in the context of a counter-terrorist operation in Jenin, in connection with the murders of a large number of Israeli citizens.
"We, as a country, operate with full transparency," he added, "and we asked the Palestinians to conduct a joint investigation into the circumstances of this tragic case. Unfortunately, the Palestinians refused. They took the body and the bullet, and therefore none of the allegations can be verified."
Herzog stressed that, "Israel has been open and transparent, offering the United States to join the investigation process, because we attach great importance to freedom of speech and the work of journalists and the media and we respect them. There are several possible scenarios here, and there have also been cases in the past where we were accused based on faked evidence and the truth eventually emerged.
"Don't rely on false reports or faked facts," the President exhorted. "Rely only on verified facts. It is very unfortunate that the Palestinians refused to cooperate."