US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised to pursue accountability for the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh wherever facts lead, calling for an “independent” probe into the incident.
The well-known veteran journalist, a Palestinian American, was fatally shot by Israeli forces on May 11 as she was covering an Israeli army raid in the Jenin camp in the north of the occupied West Bank according to witnesses and colleagues near her.
Blinken’s call for an independent probe on Thursday came as the administration of President Joe Biden insisted that Israel should be the party leading the investigation into the killing amid calls for the FBI to conduct its own review. Washington has also rejected Palestinian calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes more broadly.
It was not clear what the top US diplomat meant by “independent”; the Department of State did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for clarification by the time of publication.
Appearing at a forum for student journalists on the sidelines of a Latin America summit in Los Angeles, Blinken was asked by Abby Martin, the host of the independent documentary and interview series The Empire Files, why there have been “absolutely no repercussions” for Israel over the killing of Abu Akleh.
“We are looking for an independent, credible investigation. When that investigation happens, we will follow the facts, wherever they lead. It’s as straightforward as that,” he said.
“I deplore the loss of Shireen. She was a remarkable journalist, an American citizen,” he added.
Blinken stressed that the facts in the case “have not yet been established”.
Numerous witnesses and probes by media outlets and rights groups have concluded that Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces. Al Jazeera Media Network said shortly after the incident last month that the journalist was “assassinated in cold blood” by Israeli forces.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the facts of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing ‘have not been established’.
Shireen was shot dead by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank. pic.twitter.com/YaR1PuZg6r
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 8, 2022
Dozens of lawmakers from Blinken’s Democratic Party have called on the FBI to lead an investigation to seek an impartial finding into her death. The US Department of State, however, has said that it would trust Israel to conduct a probe.
On Monday, Key Republican Senator Mitt Romney joined his Democratic colleague Jon Ossoff in signing a letter calling on the Biden administration to push for “a full and transparent investigation” into the killing of Abu Akleh in a rare move from a GOP politician.
Israel has changed its story about the incident several times, ranging from denying the allegations, to blaming the killing on stray fire from Palestinian armed fighters, to admitting that an Israeli soldier could have mistakenly shot Abu Akleh.
Israeli authorities asked the Palestinian Authority to take part in a joint probe, and then announced that they will not conduct a criminal review into the killing. But Israeli media outlets later cited the Israeli army’s top lawyer as saying that the military is “making every effort” to investigate the incident.
Israeli police attacked Abu Akleh’s funeral procession in occupied East Jerusalem and beat pallbearers carrying her coffin with batons in scenes that spurred further anger and calls for accountability.
Al Jazeera Media Network has assigned a legal team to refer the killing to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.