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Shireen Abu Akleh: US lawmakers call for independent probe into journalist's killing

Letter marks the second effort by members of congress calling for investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera reporter
Protestors hold signs calling for justice for Shireen Abu Akleh on 15 May 2022 in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Protestors hold signs calling for justice for Shireen Abu Akleh in the Bay Ridge neighbourhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City, on 15 May 2022 (AFP)
By in
Washington

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is calling for an independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the second such congressional effort in the past two weeks.

The letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, has been signed by 24 members of the House - 14 Democrats and 10 Republicans - and is expected to be sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday.

"No journalist should face threats or violence for doing their job. As such, it is critical that we get to the bottom of what happened in the incident involving Ms Akleh," the letter said.

"Only an independent investigation can resolve this situation, and provide solace to the families and all parties."

The letter was met with criticism from Palestinians and some Jewish groups, saying that it follows Israeli government viewpoints and calls the Palestinian Authority “obstinate” for not complying with Israel on an investigation.

Abu Akleh, a 25-year veteran journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic, was shot dead by Israeli forces on 11 May while covering an Israeli raid into the Palestinian village of Jenin.

Israel had initially said Palestinian gunmen may have been responsible for the death but then backtracked on its statement, saying it was still unclear what transpired.

Eyewitnesses, including MEE correspondent Shatha Hanaysha, said Abu Akleh was targeted by an Israeli sniper.

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Last month, a larger group of 57 lawmakers signed another letter to Blinken demanding that the FBI and State Department investigate the murder of Abu Akleh.

However, a Biden administration official told The Times of Israel last week that it would not be carrying out its own probe of the incident, and would instead be assisting Israel. The official also said that the US hopes the PA will share its "evidence" with Israel when asked about the bullet.

The bullet that killed Abu Akleh is in the possession of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has refused a joint probe with the Israelis, saying Israel could not be trusted to investigate the conduct of its military.

Rights groups have also said this, saying Israel has a poor record of investigating the conduct of its forces in relation to Palestinian deaths.

The lawmakers, however, accused the PA of prohibiting a proper investigation by refusing to hand over the bullet, saying that without giving the bullet to the Israelis, "it is impossible to determine all the facts".

However, a CNN investigation concluded that it was possible to investigate the killing without the bullet by "analysing the type of gunfire, the sound of the shots and the marks left by the bullets at the scene".

The PA, along with Al Jazeera and a consortium of international lawyers, have all called on the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into the killing.

The ICC opens investigations in places where domestic authorities are unable or unwilling to look into allegations of abuse. 

Israel, however, maintains that it is not subject to the court's mandate because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the tribunal, and that the ICC cannot investigate abuses in the Palestinian territories because Palestine is not a state.