Gantz: DOJ decision to investigate Abu Akleh's death 'big mistake'

“The decision taken by the US Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the tragic passing of Shireen Abu Akleh, is a mistake," Gantz said.

A Palestinian walks in front of a mural depicting the slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh ahead of the visit of US President Joe Biden at Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, July 13, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS\Mussa Qawasma)
A Palestinian walks in front of a mural depicting the slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh ahead of the visit of US President Joe Biden at Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, July 13, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS\Mussa Qawasma)

WASHINGTON - Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz released a statement on Monday in response to media reports which indicated that the US Department of Justice informed the Israeli Ministry of Justice about its intention to investigate the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh.

“The decision taken by the US Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the tragic passing of Shireen Abu Akleh, is a big mistake," he said in a statement.

"We stand by the IDF’s soldiers, and we will not cooperate with an external investigation.”

-Benny Gantz

"The IDF has conducted a professional, independent investigation, which was presented to American officials with whom the case details were shared, he added. "I have delivered a message to US representatives that we stand by the IDF’s soldiers, and that we will not cooperate with an external investigation.”

 Defense Minister and leader of the National Unity Party Benny Gantz at a faction meeting of the National Unity Party at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022.  (credit: NOAM REVKIN/FLASH90) Defense Minister and leader of the National Unity Party Benny Gantz at a faction meeting of the National Unity Party at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem on November 6, 2022. (credit: NOAM REVKIN/FLASH90)

Gantz added: “We will not allow interference in Israel’s internal affairs.”

Israel's Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has also commented on the reports regarding the US Department of Justice's intention to investigate the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, saying: "It is an odd decision, we will not allow anyone else to investigate IDF soldiers."

"The US was part of the investigation all along, if anyone didn't cooperate it was the Palestinians," he added.

Israel's Channel 14 reported first that the US Department of Justice notified the Israeli Ministry of Justice that it would launch an investigation into Abu Akleh's death.

The US Department of Justice did not provide any comment or public statement as of Monday night. A State Department Spokesperson said that "questions relating to law enforcement matters," should be referred to the Department of Justice.

Who was Shireen Abu Akleh?

Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during a gunfight in Jenin in May. Speculation about which side was at fault for the shooting ensued, culminating in an IDF probe into the incident that found she was likely shot by an Israeli soldier.

While the IDF said it would be impossible to fully determine who the killer was, a senior IDF officer who spoke to journalists said there was a “higher probability” that the shot that killed Abu Akleh was fired by an Israeli soldier “accidentally, when he was under fire and returned fire where he had recognized armed militants shooting at him.”

A Palestinian Authority official, however, determined that the IDF had deliberately killed her. Abu Akleh’s family has made a similar charge and has called on the ICC to investigate her killing. 

“We could never expect any type of accountability or legitimate investigation from the very entity responsible for gunning down an unarmed and clearly identifiable journalist,” Abu Akleh’s niece Lina said in September when the IDF probe was released.