The US Department of State released a statement on the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh on Monday July 4, drawing anger and criticism from Abu Akleh’s family and Palestinians across the political spectrum. The US investigation “could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet,” and offered that “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death” of the slain journalist.
The Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist was killed on May 11 while covering a raid in Jenin. Abu Akleh was shot in the face despite wearing a clearly marked “PRESS” vest. Investigations by numerous international media organizations– including the New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, and the Associated Press–, as well as a United Nations probe, all concluded that Israeli forces were responsible for Abu Akleh’s killing. The US investigation took place after mounting pressure from rights groups, American lawmakers, and the international community.
In a statement released by Lina Abu Akleh, niece of Abu Akleh, the family was “incredulous” upon hearing the results of the investigation. In addition to the passive language and weak conclusions, the family expressed outrage at the “lack of transparency” and “undefined goals” of the investigation.
The State Department press release asserted that there was “no reason to believe that” Abu Akleh’s killing was intentional, instead framing it as a “result of tragic circumstances” in a so-called counter-terrorism operation. The Abu Akleh family referred to these claims as “insulting to Shireen’s memory,” adding that the Israeli military views all Palestinians as “legitimate targets.”
Palestinian Liberation Organization representative Wasel Abu Yussef told Reuters that “the truth is clear but the US administration continues to stall in announcing it.” Likewise, Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh reported that “we hold Israel fully responsible for the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh,” according to Wafa, the Palestinian National Authority’s official news agency. He added that the US should “maintain its credibility,” and affirmed that Palestinians will continue to follow up with the International Criminal Court. The US government has “already rejected the ICC’s involvement,” as reported by Al Jazeera.
According to Basem Naim of Hamas’ Political Bureau, who was quoted in a statement published by the organization, the Palestinian Authority “[bowed] to US pressures by handing over the bullet.” He also raised concerns about the timing of the investigation, suggesting that the PA made this move “ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden to the region.” Naim went on to call on the PA to stop “trading the Palestinian national issues with compromises aiming for personal and partisan gains.”
The timing of the investigation was also brought up by Yousef Munayyer, a political analyst at the Arab Center of Washington DC. Munayyer told Al Jazeera that the US wanted to take attention away from the case “as swiftly and as neatly as possible,” before Biden’s trip to the region.
The US provides over 3.7 billion USD in unconditional “security assistance” to Israel each year. The Biden administration also approved a supplementary 1 billion USD in October 2021, just months after Israel’s offensive on Gaza, which killed at least 120 Palestinian civilians.
Despite the frustration caused by the recent American investigation’s results, Abu Akleh’s family stated that they will “continue to call on the American government to conduct an open, transparent, and thorough investigation of all the facts” and will “continue to advocate for justice for Shireen.”