Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday pushed back against suggestions of prosecuting a soldier who likely shot dead Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an army operation this year.
The veteran Al Jazeera reporter was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “Press” and a helmet when she was shot in the head during the army operation in Jenin refugee camp, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Israeli army conceded Monday for the first time that one of its soldiers had likely shot Abu Akleh, after having mistaken her for a militant.
The acknowledgement comes after months in which the army had insisted it was impossible to determine the source of the deadly shot that killed the celebrated Al Jazeera journalist, saying it could have been militant fire.
Lapid told a military ceremony that he will not allow and Israeli “soldier that was protecting himself from terrorist fire to be prosecuted just to receive applause from abroad.”
“No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us,” he said at the ceremony in Haifa, echoing earlier remarks by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
“Our soldiers have the full backing of the government of Israel and the people of Israel.”
US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel had told a press briefing Tuesday: “We’re going to continue to press our Israeli partners to closely review its policies and practices on rules of engagement and consider additional steps to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, protect journalists, and prevent similar tragedies in the future.”
A United Nations investigation concluded in June that there was “no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by” when Abu Akleh was shot.
State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday had underscored “the importance of accountability in this case… to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”