WASHINGTON, Friday, June 24, 2022 (WAFA) – Over 20 US senators urged President Joe Biden on Thursday to ensure Washington “directly involved” in investigating the killing of slain iconic Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
In a letter addressed to President Biden, the lawmakers, all of them Democrats plus two independents, said they since the time Abu Akleh was killed, “there has been no significant progress toward the establishment of an independent, thorough, and transparent investigation into her killing.”
Abu Akleh, 51, was shot dead by Israeli forces on 11 May near the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank while covering an Israeli raid. Her colleague Ali al-Samoudi was also shot and injured.
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 said Abu Akleh was targeted by an Israeli sniper. Al Jazeera has said Abu Akleh was "assassinated in cold blood".
“We believe that, as a leader in the effort to protect the freedom of the press and the safety of journalists, and given the fact that Ms. Abu Akleh was an American citizen, the U.S. 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,” read the letter, led by Senator Chris Van Hollen.
“In order to protect freedom of the press, a thorough and transparent investigation under US auspices must be conducted to get to the truth and provide accountability for the killing of this American citizen and journalist,” the senators said.
Calls have grown both in the US and internationally for an independent investigation into Abu Akleh's killing.
More than 50 US lawmakers signed a letter last month demanding the FBI and State Department to intervene and launch their own investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing.
Thursday’s letter said the senators “join in that request,” especially after “new information that has emerged in recent weeks.”
They were referring to investigations by The Washington Post, CNN and The Associated Press, which all concluded that “there was no Palestinian gunfire emanating from the location of the shooting” when Abu Akleh was shot and killed.
The Palestinian Authority has refused to hand over the bullet to Israel, saying Israel could not be trusted to investigate the conduct of its military. Rights groups have also said Israel has a poor record of investigating the conduct of its forces in relation to Palestinian deaths.
Al Jazeera has referred the case to the International Criminal Court in the Hague and vowed to bring the killers to justice through all international legal platforms.