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US says it hasn’t been asked to help in probe of Al Jazeera reporter’s killing

Israeli officials appear to dispute State Department spokesman’s remark, insisting they’ve invited US to participate in their inquiry

Yellow tape marks bullet holes on a tree and a portrait and flowers create a makeshift memorial at the site where Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Jenin, on May 19, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Yellow tape marks bullet holes on a tree and a portrait and flowers create a makeshift memorial at the site where Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Jenin, on May 19, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority have formally requested US assistance in the investigation into the killing of a Palestinian-American journalist in the West Bank, the State Department said Wednesday.

Israel says Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was killed during a complex shootout between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, and that only ballistic analysis of the bullet — which is held by the PA — and the soldiers’ guns, can determine if one of them fired the fatal shot.

The involvement of a third party could temper the severe distrust between the sides, allowing for a full and impartial account of what happened.

Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation with the PA, with US participation.

But this week, State Department spokesman Ned Price said he was “not aware of any request for assistance” from either side. And when asked during a press briefing Wednesday — two weeks after Abu Akleh’s death — if the US had been asked to participate or act as an observer, he stood by his previous answer.

“We have made clear to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities that we expect the investigations to be transparent and impartial, a full, thorough accounting into the circumstances of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh,” Price said.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of veteran Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh out of the office of Al Jazeera after friends and colleagues paid their respects, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 11, 2022. (AP/Nasser Nasser, File)

Any American involvement would require a request from both Israel and the PA, which administers parts of the West Bank.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat said “Israeli officials publicly invited the United States to be part of the inquiry.” He added that “similar messages were passed on official channels,” but declined to elaborate.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog told the Kan public broadcaster nearly two weeks ago that he had offered for the US to take part in a joint investigation and that the idea was being considered. “But the Palestinians have rejected any efforts to cooperate so far.”

The PA says it is carrying out its own investigation and will share the results with international parties. It has refused to hand over the bullet or cooperate with Israel in any way, saying it doesn’t trust Israel to investigate itself, and pointing to previous cases of killings by soldiers who received little or no punishment.

Within hours of her death, both the PA and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh, but provided no specific evidence for the claim, which Israel strongly denies.

Flowers, flags, and other memorabilia create a makeshift memorial at the site where veteran Palestinian-American reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed, in the West Bank city of Jenin, May 19, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Ballistics analysis could potentially match the bullet to a specific firearm, but only if investigators have access to both. Israel and the Palestinians are unlikely to accept any conclusions reached by the other side.

CNN said Tuesday that it had conducted its own inquiry into Abu Akleh’s killing in Jenin on May 11, and said the results suggested she was deliberately targeted by Israeli forces. The IDF retorted that the allegation was “entirely unfounded.”

The Associated Press said separately on Tuesday that a reconstruction it carried out lends support to assertions from both Palestinian authorities and Abu Akleh’s colleagues that the bullet that cut her down came from an Israeli gun.

Abu Akleh had spent more than 25 years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was a widely known and respected on-air correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service.

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