The bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has been handed over to a US team of forensic experts, Palestinian officials said on Saturday.
The move is a step forward in potentially resolving heightened tensions between Palestinian and Israeli officials over the veteran correspondent's death.
US team to examine bullet
The Palestinian attorney general, Akram al-Khatib, said the bullet was handed over to US experts for a technical examination.
The Palestinian Authority received assurances from the US that no modifications would be made to the bullet and that it would be returned once the assessment was complete, al-Khatib told news agency AFP.
While acquiring the bullet is a step forward, the analysis by the US team is likely to be difficult without examining the weapon that fired the bullet, the Associated Press reported. Typical forensic ballistic analysis would rely on examining both the suspected firearm and the projectile, usually by test-firing other bullets from the same weapon and then comparing the markings left on those with ones from the crime scene.
The announcement also comes just over a week before US President Joe Biden is due to visit the region.
Tensions over journalist's death
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist, was a longtime correspondent for the Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, and was renowned for her reporting in the Middle East.
Her death sparked outrage and condemnation as the journalist had been covering an Israeli military operation in the city of Jenin in the Palestinian territories when she was killed on May 11.
She had also been wearing a protective helmet and vest with the word "PRESS" written on it. Her colleague Ali Sammoudi was also wounded.
Tensions heightened further when video footage of Israeli security forces attacking the pallbearers carrying Abu Akleh's coffin at her funeral went viral days after her death.
Israel offered to launch a joint investigation into the incident with Palestinian authorities, but this offer was rejected.
The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) says the journalist was caught in the crossfire during clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen. They've requested to examine the bullet, saying it is crucial to determining which side fired the fatal shot. Palestinian officials have repeatedly turned down the request.
UN concludes Israeli forces fired fatal shot
On June 26, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said its independent investigation into the killing of the Abu Akleh found that it was the responsibility of Israeli forces.
"All information we have gathered — including official information from the Israeli military and the Palestinian Attorney-General — is consistent with the finding that the shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities," the OHCHR said in a statement.
Responding to the UN assessment, the IDF rejected the insinuation that Abu Akleh had been killed on purpose, saying "the journalist was not shot intentionally in any way."
The IDF has previously said the bullet could have been fired by one of their soldiers but that the circumstances were unclear.
rs/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)