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Abu Akleh’s family rails at US ‘betrayal,’ asks to meet Biden during trip next week

Relatives of Palestinian-American al Jazeera reporter express outrage over what they say is Washington’s attempt to erase Israel’s responsibility for her death

A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is on display, in Gaza City, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A mural of slain of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is on display, in Gaza City, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The family of a Palestinian-American reporter killed during a gunbattle between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank lashed out at US President Joe Biden in a letter released Friday over his administration’s response to her death.

Relatives of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh also asked to meet with Biden during his visit to Israel and the West Bank next week.

The family expressed “grief, outrage and [a] sense of betrayal,” accusing the US of trying to erase Israel’s responsibility for her death. A US statement earlier this week said Israeli fire likely killed her but that the May 11 shooting in the West Bank town of Jenin was not intentional.

The family called on Biden to “meet with us during your upcoming visit and hear directly from us about our concerns and demands for justice.”

The fallout from the killing is likely to cast a shadow over Biden’s trip to Israel and the West Bank next week. There was no immediate response from US officials to the family’s request.

A reconstruction by The Associated Press lent support to Palestinian eyewitnesses who said she was shot by Israeli forces without making a final determination. Investigations by CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as monitoring by the UN human rights office, reached similar conclusions.

The Palestinian Authority claimed its probe showed she was deliberately targeted by Israel, an assertion Israel rejected as blatantly false.

Israel, which continues to investigate the incident, says she could have been shot by an Israeli soldier or a Palestinian gunman. The State Department said in a July 4 statement that the bullet that killed her was too badly damaged to determine who fired it.

The statement said the US had summarized separate investigations by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, concluding that she was likely struck by Israeli fire. But it found “no reason to believe that this was intentional,” saying it was the result of “tragic circumstances.”

Shireen Abu Akleh reporting from the West Bank for Al Jazeera in an undated clip (Al Jazeera screenshot)

The Abu Akleh family said “all available evidence” suggests she was deliberately killed by an Israeli soldier and that the administration had “thoroughly failed to meet the bare minimum expectation” of a credible, independent investigation.

“Instead, the United States has been skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by Israeli forces,” they said. “It is as if you expect the world and us to now just move on. Silence would have been better.”

US lawmakers have pressed the administration for an independent investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, a veteran on-air correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic language service who was widely known and respected across the Arab world.

Abu Akleh, who was 51, had spent a quarter-century reporting on the realities of life under Israeli military rule. Palestinians view her as a martyr to journalism as well as their national cause.

Israeli police drew widespread criticism when they beat mourners and pallbearers at her funeral in Jerusalem on May 14. An Israeli newspaper last month reported that a police investigation found wrongdoing by some of its officers, but said those who supervised the event will not be seriously punished.

Palestinians surround the Palestinian flag-draped body of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, as it is brought to the news channel’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on May 11, 2022. (Abbas Momani/Pool via AP)

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that the United States has sought accountability for Abu Akleh’s death but stopped short of recommending that Israel launch a criminal case. The IDF says they are still probing the death.

Two officials familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel Monday that Israel was angered by the State Department’s decision to say it was likely to blame for the shooting and told their American counterparts that conclusions should have been left out of the US statement, given that the bullet was found to be too damaged to reach a definitive answer.

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