‘Upsetting’: Shireen Abu Akleh family rejects Israel’s ‘sorry’

Slain Al Jazeera journalist’s niece says Israeli military saying it is sorry is a ‘slap in the face’, not an apology.

Shireen Abu Akleh
'From the moment that Shireen was killed, the Israeli government and the military have lied and distorted the truth,' Lina Abu Akleh says [File: Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]

Washington, DC – The family of Shireen Abu Akleh has rebuked Israel for saying it is “sorry” for the Al Jazeera reporter’s death without providing accountability or even acknowledging that its forces killed her.

Speaking outside the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, on Thursday, Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, said the Israeli statement does not amount to an apology.

“To be very clear: The Israeli army did not admit to or apologise for murdering Shireen. To us, we don’t consider that an apology,” Lina said. “It’s honestly a slap in the face to Shireen’s legacy and to our family. An apology — which that was not — is not accountability.”

On May 11, the first anniversary of Abu Akleh’s shooting death, an Israeli army spokesperson was asked by CNN whether the military was “ready” to apologise.

“I think it’s an opportunity for me to say here that we are very sorry of the death of the late Shireen Abu Akleh,” the spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, responded.

Lina Abu Akleh
Lina Abu Akleh, flanked by US lawmakers, advocates and other family members, speaks outside the US Capitol on May 18 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

On Thursday, Lina and other family members said the slain journalist’s relatives are seeking accountability, which “requires action”.

“From the moment that Shireen was killed, the Israeli government and the military have lied and distorted the truth,” she told reporters. “So it is deeply upsetting that, on the one-year anniversary of Shireen’s killing, the Israeli military — once again — they re-victimised the family.”

Lina has done work for Al Jazeera as a news producer, but she spoke on Thursday as a member the Abu Akleh family. The slain journalist’s nephew, Victor Abu Akleh, and her cousin, Jennifer Zacharia, also spoke at a news conference calling for accountability on Thursday.

The late Abu Akleh, a US citizen, was killed on May 11, 2022, while covering an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. At first, Israeli officials falsely accused Palestinian gunmen of fatally shooting the veteran reporter, who was renowned across the Arab World.

Months after the killing, Israel acknowledged that one of its soldiers likely killed Abu Akleh but dismissed the incident as unintentional. The Israeli government did not open a criminal probe into the killing.

Numerous media outlets, rights groups and eyewitnesses have documented that there was no fighting in the immediate vicinity where Abu Akleh was shot.

Still, the US — which provides Israel with at least $3.8bn in aid annually — has accepted the Israeli version of the events despite initial calls for accountability and for an independent investigation.

Lina and other relatives of the slain journalists are back in Washington, DC, this week to press the case.

“I’m here with my family to continue to demand accountability and justice for her killing and get more support from the Hill like we did last year,” Lina told Al Jazeera.

In 2022, Abu Akleh’s relatives met US lawmakers as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but the White House did not fulfil their request to meet with President Joe Biden.

At a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, several Democratic members of Congress joined Abu Akleh’s family to renew their calls for justice.

The Biden administration has said repeatedly that it is calling for accountability by pressing Israel to change its military rules of engagement to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future — a demand that was explicitly rejected by Israeli leaders.

Lina told Al Jazeera on Thursday that, while she and her family welcome efforts to review Israel’s rules of engagement, the push does not meet the definition of accountability.

“We want there to be accountability — for the soldier to be held responsible, for the entire system to be held to account for murdering a journalist and a US citizen,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera