Israel's Prime Minister Yair Lapid has pushed back against suggestions of prosecuting a soldier who likely shot dead Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering an Israeli army operation in the occupied West Bank in May.
"I will not allow an [Israeli military] 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. "Our soldiers have the full backing of the government of Israel and the people of Israel."" Lapid told a military ceremony, reports Al Jazeera.
Shireen Abu Akleh was wearing a bulletproof vest marked "Press" and a helmet when she was shot in the head in the Jenin refugee camp. Her killing caused global outrage and calls for an independent investigation.
The Israeli army conceded on Monday (6 September) for the first time that one of its soldiers had likely shot Abu Akleh, after having mistaken her for a fighter. It had initially blamed Palestinian gunmen for her killing.
"There is a high possibility that Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by [Israeli military] gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen," said the army's final report into her 11 May death.
The acknowledgement came after months in which the army had insisted it was impossible to determine the source of the deadly shot that killed the celebrated journalist.
US Department of State spokesman Vedant Patel had told a news briefing on 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".
A United Nations investigation concluded in June that there was "no evidence of activity by armed Palestinians close by" when Abu Akleh was shot.
Israel's military advocate said on Monday that the circumstances of the incident "do not raise the suspicion of a crime having been committed which would justify the opening of a criminal investigation".
The Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately targeting Abu Akleh. Israel has denied this.
"Israel has expressed sorrow over her death. It was a tragedy that transpired in an incident in which there was heavy enemy fire. The [Israeli military] never intentionally shoots at innocent people," Lapid said.
The Abu Akleh family said that Israel had "refused to take responsibility for the murder" of the journalist.