The family of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh called for a criminal probe into her death when it met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We will continue to ask for accountability and for a US-led investigation that is transparent and independent,” Abu Akleh’s niece Lina told Al Jazeera after the meeting on Tuesday in Washington.
Shireen, a veteran Al Jazeera reporter, was killed on May 11 while covering an IDF raid in Jenin.
Her family and the Palestinian Authority have charged that she was killed by IDF soldiers and have accused the army of deliberately targeting her.
The US has yet to launch a criminal probe and Blinken did not commit to doing so when he spoke with the family.
“We would hope that the FBI would carry out a criminal investigation since this is an extrajudicial killing of an American citizen,” Lina told National Public Radio after the meeting.
Blinken tweeted about his conversation with the family stating that Abu Akleh’s “fearless journalism” earned “the respect of audiences around the world.”
“I expressed my deepest condolences and commitment to pursue accountability for her tragic killing,” he wrote.
Lina responded to him on Twitter stating, “accountability requires action. We look forward to a US investigation that leads to real consequences.
“Shireen was my aunt and the voice of Palestine and she was killed by an Israeli soldier,” Lina stated.
US investigation into death of Abu Akleh
US State Department spokesman Ned Price in his regular briefing with reporters attempted to justify the lack of a US criminal probe by touting the inconclusive US forensic tests on the bullet that fatally wounded Abu Akleh in the head and its review of material from both the IDF and Palestinian Authority investigations.
“The US security coordinator worked closely with Israeli investigators, with Palestinian investigators, and in this case did his own summary of those investigations, reaching a series of conclusions,” Price said, adding that such steps were “unusual.”
“Not only did the team do a forensics examination of the bullet whose passage from Palestinian authorities to independent examiners in this case we facilitated but concluded based on the two investigations that are being conducted that the bullet that tragically took the life Shireen Abu Akleh most likely emanated from an IDF position.”
Price added that the US security coordinator “also found no indication that there was any intentionality behind the tragic death of Shireen.”
Publication of these findings “speaks to our commitment to pursuing an investigation that is credible,” “thorough” and “culminates in accountability,” Price said. The US has spoken about the issue of accountability with Israel and the PA, he added.
The Biden administration issued findings from the forensic tests on July 4, stating that they showed that the bullet was too damaged to provide information with regard to the shooter’s identity.
Israel had hoped that trace markings from the bullet could determine if Abu Akleh was shot by IDF soldiers or Palestinian gunmen, who had been engaged with IDF forces that morning in Jenin.
The PA has said that forensic testing was possible on the bullet and that its examination showed that it was an IDF bullet.
Price said the US has focused on bridging the Israeli and Palestinian investigations.
Family members, including Abu Akleh’s brother Tony, told Blinken of their frustration with the Biden administration’s inconclusive findings, which they felt were flimsy and damaged, rather than helped, the investigation.
They asked that Blinken retract the July 4 report. Lina told NPR that, “we felt that this report that was released was not an investigation. It did not hold the perpetrators accountable. On the contrary, it was damaging to the truth and to multiple news outlets and the UN’s report that [was] released and that clearly showed evidence.”
Abu Akleh’s family had sought a meeting with US President Joe Biden during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Instead, they were granted an audience with Blinken.
“We expressed to @SecBlinken how important it was to meet with @POTUS [Biden]. A meeting with him will demonstrate to our family that Shireen’s case is a priority for this administration,” Lina tweeted.
“Since he didn’t meet with us in Jerusalem, we came to DC. We need him to hear from us directly,” Lina wrote.
Blinken “told us that he has a duty to protect every US citizen. We will hold him to this,” she wrote. He also “committed to transparency with our family going forward, and we expect to be consulted and updated every step of the way.”
While in Washington the Abu Akleh family also met with Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal from Washington state and Betty McCollum from Minnesota.
They will also meet with Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Barbara Lee of California. With respect to Democratic senators, they will meet with Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Jeff Merkley of Oregon.