US pressing Israel over IDF rules of engagement after Abu Akleh killing

Journalists in Washington on Tuesday pressed both Patel and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on the need for Israeli accountability in Shireen Abu Akleh's death.

 A portrait of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid, is displayed during a special mass in her memory in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank, May 16, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
A portrait of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid, is displayed during a special mass in her memory in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the West Bank, May 16, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)

The United States is pushing Israel to review the army's rules of engagement in the aftermath of the shooting death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, State Department deputy spokesman deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said 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, protect journalists and prevent similar tragedies in the future," Patel told reporters in Washington.

He spoke out one day after the IDF concluded it was highly probable that one of its soldiers had shot her accidentally while she covered violent clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin on the morning of May 11 for the Al Jazeera network.

Israel has no plans to pursue a criminal investigation. The IDF's brief report did not unveil any new information regarding her death.

Journalists in Washington on Tuesday pressed both Patel and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on the need for Israeli accountability in her death.

Palestinians protest in support of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as US President Joe Biden visits Augusta Victoria Hospital, in Jerusalem, July 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)Palestinians protest in support of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as US President Joe Biden visits Augusta Victoria Hospital, in Jerusalem, July 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

"We have been very public about making sure that there is accountability."

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

"We have been very public about making sure that there is accountability," Jean-Pierre said, but she did not detail what steps Israel needed to take to comply with that requirement.

One journalist told her, "It feels like our government does not have our back."

Jean-Pierre said she disagreed. "We stand up for journalists. We stand up for the freedom they should be given in order to report."

Bennett's response

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took issue with the State Department's call for the IDF to change its rule of engagement in the field, noting that the decision as to when soldiers should use live fire should only be determined by Israeli army commanders and not the White House.

It must be "detached from any pressure, internal or external," said Bennett, who was Prime Minister when Abu Akleh was killed.

'At any given moment there are Palestinian terrorists trying to murder Israelis, not the other way around," Bennett said.

"Our hand is not light on the trigger," he said adding that there is a "moral imperative to strike terrorists to save human lives."

"As Prime Minister, I gave full backing to our fighters, and I expect our friends in the world not to preach morality to us but to support us in our war on terror," Bennett said.

The Israeli left-wing NGO Yesh Din said that the rule as to when Israeli soldiers open fire needed to be changed.

"We welcome the [US] demand to examine the instructions on when to open fire and hope that the army will change these rules so as to prevent those who are innocent from being shot.Abu Akleh's story "is not unusual" and "many lives have been cut short because of the finger has been light on the trigger. Israel has a duty to change this," Yesh Din stated.