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Meeting Blinken in DC, Abu Akleh family demands independent US probe into her death

Relatives of reporter say that US hasn’t ‘meaningfully answered’ their calls for justice, days after top US official told ToI that Israeli, PA probes into killing suffice

Relatives of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, including her brother Tony Abu Akleh (L), her niece Lina Abu Akleh (C), and nephew Victor Abu Akleh (2L), stand outside the State Department in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2022, after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)
Relatives of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, including her brother Tony Abu Akleh (L), her niece Lina Abu Akleh (C), and nephew Victor Abu Akleh (2L), stand outside the State Department in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2022, after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP)

WASHINGTON — The family of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh said the US has not “meaningfully answered” their calls for justice, following a meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday.

“Although he made some commitments on Shireen’s killing, we’re still waiting to see if this administration will meaningfully answer our calls for justice,” the late reporter’s niece Lina tweeted.

Lina received an invitation to Washington along with several other relatives of Abu Akleh during a phone call from Blinken earlier this month.

Lina said that Blinken told them during the meeting that “he has a duty to protect every US citizen. We will hold him to this. Nothing short of a US investigation that leads to real accountability is acceptable, and we won’t stop until no other American or Palestinian family endures the same pain we have.”

Abu Akleh’s family also relayed their desire for a meeting with Biden, who is still recovering from COVID-19.

“A meeting with him will demonstrate to our family that Shireen’s case is a priority for this administration. Since he didn’t meet with us in Jerusalem, we came to DC. We need him to hear from us directly,” Lina Abu Akleh wrote, adding that Blinken pledged transparency with the family moving forward.

A photo of slain US-Palestinian Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, with a caption in Arabic reading ‘Shireen Abu Akleh, the voice of Palestine,’ is seen ahead of a joint press conference between the US and Palestinian Authority presidents in Bethlehem on July 15, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

The family is likely to be disappointed with the US position though, as days before they landed in Washington, a senior administration official told The Times of Israel that the US would not be opening its own investigation into the reporter’s May 11 killing.

Abu Akleh’s relatives said they will be meeting US lawmakers while in town and in a statement called on the US to launch its own “thorough, credible independent and transparent investigation” into Abu Akleh’s murder.

“For far too long, the United States has enabled Israel to kill with impunity by providing weapons, immunity, and diplomatic cover,” read a statement from Lina, the late Abu Akleh’s brother Tony and her nephew Victor.

“Impunity leads to repetition. We are here to do our part to ensure that this cycle ends,” the family said.

“If we allow Shireen’s killing to be swept under the rug, we send a message that the lives of US citizens abroad don’t matter, that the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation don’t matter, and that the most courageous journalists in the world, those who cover the human impact of armed conflict and violence, are expendable.”

Washington announced earlier this month after reviewing evidence that it was not possible to definitively determine who killed the reporter and that there was no reason to believe the shooting was deliberate, but said the Israeli army was likely responsible.

Protesters hold posters for slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh near the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

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 Thursday that the White House was satisfied with Fenzel’s reliance on the Israeli and Palestinian investigations.

The official reiterated the Biden administration’s call for Israel to conclude its own probe and release the findings as soon as possible.

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.

Blinken called Abu Akleh’s family the day before Biden’s trip to Israel. The family’s request for a meeting with the president while he was in the Middle East was not granted, but Blinken invited the family to Washington instead.

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