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U.S. says it was likely an Israeli soldier who killed Palestinian-American journalist

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The U.S. State Department says the bullet that killed Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in May was likely fired from, quote, "Israeli positions." But it said it did not believe she was shot intentionally. Abu Akleh was reporting for Al-Jazeera on an Israeli operation against armed Palestinians when she was shot in the head. As NPR's Daniel Estrin reports, it's not a closed case for Palestinians or Israelis.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: After some Congress members called on the State Department to get more involved, the U.S. convinced the Palestinian Authority to hand over the fatal bullet this weekend. U.S. officials oversaw a ballistics investigation conducted by Israeli experts. The State Department says the bullet was too damaged to match it to a weapon. But reviewing official Israeli and Palestinian investigations, the U.S. concluded gunfire from Israeli army positions was, quote, "likely responsible." Israel isn't ready to go that far - Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

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BENNY GANTZ: Unfortunately, it is not possible to determine the source of the shooting. And as such, the investigation will continue.

ESTRIN: The U.S. says it found no evidence the shooting was intentional and notes Israeli soldiers were battling Palestinian militants at the time, following deadly attacks in Israel. Defense Minister Gantz deflected responsibility.

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GANTZ: The first to bear responsibility in such events are the terrorists who operate from within population centers.

ESTRIN: Israeli human rights group B'Tselem accused the U.S. of helping Israel, quote, whitewash a crime. The Palestinian Authority rejected the U.S. claim that the bullet yields no answers. The Abu Akleh family opposed letting Israelis examine the bullet and said the U.S. conclusion achieves little.

ANTON ABU AKLEH: It's more like a cold comfort, you know? It's like putting salt on a wound. It's not acceptable.

ESTRIN: Abu Akleh's brother, Anton, told NPR he expects more.

ABU AKLEH: The U.S. government are able to put the needed pressure on Israel to be held accountable, to identify whoever is responsible and to bring them to justice. It's very simple. It can be done.

ESTRIN: The State Department mentioned next steps and accountability, but didn't specify. A week before President Biden visits the region, a U.S. attempt at answers leaves open questions.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Tel Aviv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.