search

Israel reportedly set to release investigation findings on Shireen Abu Akleh’s death

Upcoming report said to be in the works due to White House pressure, including recent visit by assistant secretary of state, almost four months after journalist was shot dead

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

Israel is reportedly planning to release the findings of its long-awaited investigation into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the next few days.

According to reports in i24 news and Walla, Israel has been pressured by the United States to finally release its full investigation, almost four months after the journalist’s death, including during a recent visit by US Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf.

A July 4 statement issued by the State Department concluded that Israeli forces likely fired the shot that killed Abu Akleh in May during a gun battle between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin, but that there was no indication Israelis intentionally shot the veteran Al Jazeera correspondent. The 51-year-old reporter, an American citizen, was highly respected in the Arab world for her decades covering Palestinians and other Arab communities.

Leaf was in Israel and the West Bank from Thursday to Saturday for a low-profile visit that included meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials. The State Department said Leaf was in the region “to discuss a range of priorities,” which included “US interest in improving the quality of life for the Palestinian people.” Few details emerged from her visit, though she reportedly told Israeli officials that Washington was troubled by escalating violence in the West Bank.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and US President Joe Biden spoke on the phone last week, though neither country’s readout mentioned any discussion of the Abu Akleh probe.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman pressed visiting Israeli national security adviser Eyal Hulata during a meeting in DC late last month about the issue. According to a statement from the State Department, Sherman “emphasized the need for accountability in the tragic killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.”

Palestinian journalist Ali Al Samoudi visits a makeshift shrine at the site where veteran Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an IDF raid in Jenin, May 19, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

In mid-August, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters at a press conference that “there have been a number of conversations at various levels” between Israeli and US officials about the ongoing investigation into Abu Akleh’s death.

“We believe in the importance of accountability in this case,” said Price. “Ultimately, it is our goal to see to it that measures are put in place to prevent something this tragic, something this horrible from happening again.”

At a press conference in Washington on Thursday hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, reiterated a call for a US-led investigation into her death. Lina said that since her aunt was killed there was “no accountability and no action from the US administration.”

In July, frustrated family members of Abu Akleh said they felt that US officials were of no help to their pursuit of justice for the slain journalist. Lina said at the time that, following a meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “we’re still waiting to see if this administration will meaningfully answer our calls for justice.”

Lina Abu Akleh speaks at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on September 1, 2022. (Screen capture/YouTube)

But despite a repeated push for an independent US probe of Abu Akleh’s death from some progressive Democrats, the Biden administration has held firm to its position to not launch its own investigation.

The July 4 announcement by the State Department came after US Security Coordinator in Jerusalem General Mike Fenzel reviewed both Israeli and Palestinian investigations, and ballistic experts from his office examined the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, which was too damaged to draw a definitive conclusion.

The results enraged Abu Akleh’s family, which called the conclusions “treasonous.” Over a dozen Democratic Congress members also argued that relying on Israeli and Palestinian investigations was not sufficient and that US authorities should conduct their own probe that would directly gather evidence and question those involved.

But a senior administration official said the White House was satisfied with Fenzel’s reliance on the Israeli and Palestinian investigations.

The PA said its investigation proved that the Al Jazeera journalist was intentionally targeted and killed by the IDF during a raid in the northern West Bank Palestinian city of Jenin after a series of terror attacks against Israelis, including some carried out by Jenin residents. Israel flatly rejected the PA’s claim as a blatant lie and said there is not enough evidence to draw a definitive conclusion about who fired the fatal bullet.

Jacob Magid and agencies contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed