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US senator dismisses Israeli report on Shireen Abu Akleh's killing

Chris Van Hollen says there was no evidence to show Israeli military was returning fire when journalist shot
A portrait of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy to support Palestinians, in Athens, on 16 May 2022 (AFP)

US Senator Chris Van Hollen on Wednesday rejected an Israeli army report that said a soldier likely killed Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by accident during a gun battle with armed Palestinians. He said the claim was not supported by evidence.

"The crux of the 'defence' in this IDF report is that a soldier was 'returning fire' from militants," he tweeted. He added that investigations by the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, the Washington Post, and the United Nations found "no such firing at the time".

"This underscores need for independent US inquiry into this American journalist's death."

Shireen Abu Akleh: Israeli army admits 'highly probable' it killed journalist
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On Monday, an Israeli army investigation into the killing of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist concluded she was likely to have been unintentionally shot by an Israeli soldier - but was not deliberately targeted.

Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli forces on 11 May while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Her colleague Ali al-Samoudi was also shot and injured. 

A statement on the investigation published on Monday said "there is a high possibility that M Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by IDF [Israeli army] gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen".

The Israeli Military Advocate General's Office said it would not open an investigation into any soldiers involved in the incident as "there is no suspicion that a criminal offence was committed".

The army investigation also said it was possible that she was shot by Palestinian gunmen.

Back in June, two dozen US senators called on President Joe Biden to ensure Washington was "directly involved" in investigating Abu Akleh's killing.

In a letter sent to Biden, senators called for the State Department and FBI to launch an "independent investigation under US auspices to determine the truth" about the Palestinian American's death. 

Hollen led the efforts saying: "The US government has an obligation to ensure that a comprehensive, impartial, and open investigation into her shooting death is conducted - one in which all parties can have full confidence in the ultimate findings."