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Justice for Shireen banner

A woman drapes a traditional scarf on a banner calling for justice for Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on May 15, 2022. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel Refuses to Cooperate With US Probe Into Palestinian-American Journalist's Killing

Israeli officials condemned the FBI investigation, while Shireen Abu Akleh's family expressed hope that the probe will lead to accountability for those responsible.

Julia Conley

The family of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh expressed hope Tuesday that the FBI's newly announced investigation into her death will bring them "closer to justice," as Israeli officials said they will not cooperate with the FBI and condemned the U.S. for opening a probe at all.

Israeli Foreign Minister Benny Gantz suggested the Biden administration should accept the "professional, independent investigation" already conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which concluded that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh in the occupied West Bank in May was too damaged to determine who had fired it.

"We hope that the United States will use all of the investigative tools at its disposal to get answers about Shireen's killing."

A U.S.-led forensic and ballistic investigation found in July that an IDF soldier had likely unintentionally fired the bullet, while the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that "the shots that killed Abu Akleh... came from Israeli Security Forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians."

An independent probe in September by the U.K.-based group Forensic Architecture and the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq determined that Israeli forces intentionally killed Abu Akleh.

"I have delivered a message to U.S. representatives that we stand by the IDF's soldiers, that we will not cooperate with an external investigation, and will not enable intervention to internal investigations," Gantz said in a statement.

Former Israeli Foreign Ministry chief of staff Yaki Dayan told The Washington Post that the probe is "more than a grave mistake; it's an outrage."

"It's basically a vote of no confidence on Israel," Dayan said.

Writer and researcher Abdullah Shihipar noted in response to the outcry that "governments get involved whenever their citizens are killed overseas."

Abu Akleh was killed while reporting from the city of Jenin during a military crackdown by the IDF.

Her family filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court in September, and has repeatedly called on the Biden administration to investigate.

"It is what the United States should do when a U.S. citizen is killed abroad, especially when they are killed, like Shireen, by a foreign military," said Lina Abu Akleh, the journalist's niece, on Tuesday. "We hope that the United States will use all of the investigative tools at its disposal to get answers about Shireen's killing and hold those who are responsible for this atrocity accountable."

At Haaretz, Ben Samuels wrote on Tuesday that the FBI's decision to open an investigation—following calls from progressive lawmakers as well as the Abu Akleh family—represents "a milestone in a truly unprecedented pressure campaign from Democratic members of Congress pushing a Democratic administration to take a firm stance against Israel."

On Monday, 19 House Democrats including Reps. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) introduced the Justice for Shireen Act, which would require a report by the U.S. State Department, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the National Director of Intelligence about Abu Akleh's killing.

Tlaib called the FBI probe "long overdue" and expressed hope that it would be the "first step towards real accountability."

"To be clear—the Abu Akleh family should never have had to fight for justice or to get an investigation into her murder," said the congresswoman, who is also Palestinian-American. "I urge the FBI and the Justice Department to take every step possible to ensure that this investigation is conducted in a transparent, credible, and unbiased manner."


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