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Shireen Abu Akleh: Family of slain journalist accuses Biden of 'betrayal' after US probe

Abu Akleh's family calls on US State Department to rescind its 4 July statement on the killing and provide them with all the evidence they reviewed
Shireen Abu Akleh was killed on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Shireen Abu Akleh was killed on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank (AFP/File photo)
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Washington

The family of murdered Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is demanding US President Joe Biden meet with them during his visit to Israel next week, and accused his administration of "skulking toward the erasure of any wrongdoing by Israeli forces," following a US assessment that the killing was unintentional.

"We, the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, write to express our grief, outrage and sense of betrayal concerning your administration's abject response to the extrajudicial killing of our sister and aunt by Israeli forces on May 11, 2022, while on assignment in the occupied Palestinian city of Jenin in the West Bank," the family said in a letter, which was also addressed to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"Your administration has thoroughly failed to meet the bare minimum expectation held by a grieving family - to ensure a prompt, thorough, credible, impartial, independent, effective and transparent investigation that leads to true justice and accountability for Shireen's killing.

'Your administration's actions can only be seen as an attempt to erase the extrajudicial killing of Shireen and further entrench the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces'

Shireen Abu Akleh family's letter to Joe Biden

"Meet with us during your upcoming visit and hear directly from us about our concerns and demands for justice."

Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic, was killed on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Her death sparked Palestinian outrage and widespread international condemnation.

Since the killing, several investigations by Middle East Eye, The Washington Post, The New York Times, as well as international bodies and the United Nations, concluded that Israeli forces had in fact likely killed Abu Akleh.

On Monday, the US State Department released a carefully worded statement regarding its assessment of the killing of Abu Akleh, saying that gunfire from Israeli positions "was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh". However, it dismissed the incident as the unintentional "result of tragic circumstances".

The statement was rebuked by the family, as well as Palestinian activists who accused Washington of trying to bury the issue by releasing its assessment on 4 July, a public holiday in the US.

In their letter, the family, including Abu Akleh's brother Anton and his children, called on the State Department to retract their Monday statement, saying it is "not based on any credible assessment".

The White House did not immediately respond to MEE's request for comment on the letter.

'Provide us with all the information'

While State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a news conference on Tuesday that the US had been in contact with Abu Akleh's relatives, the family disputed this in Friday's letter, saying that the assessment took them by surprise and that they were not "adequately consulted, informed, and supported by US government officials" since she was killed.

In addition to demanding a meeting with President Biden, Abu Akleh's family has demanded that the administration provide them with all of the information that they had access to during their review of the investigations.

"Provide us with all of the information gathered by your administration to date concerning Shireen's killings, including any evidence reviewed and assessed by US officials, the identities and qualifications of all individuals present during the latest review of evidence, any forensics reports or other information that has not been provided to us or our legal team," the family wrote.

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"We reaffirm these demands on behalf of our beloved Shireen as your administration's actions to date have not only fallen woefully short of 'full accountability' but they amount to express acceptance for Shireen's killing.

"Your administration's actions can only be seen as an attempt to erase the extrajudicial killing of Shireen and further entrench the systemic impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces and officials for unlawfully killing Palestinians."

The request for information has also been made by a London-based law firm representing the family, who earlier this week requested access to the bullet that killed her.

The State Department has claimed in their review that the bullet has been too damaged to be able to conduct a conclusive forensic analysis.

Meanwhile, Palestinian activists have accused Israel's framing of the investigation around the bullet, rather than the Israeli forces themselves, of being an attempt to spin the narrative around what happened rather than seek actual accountability.