The guilty party who shot Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin last month cannot be determined without the crucial evidence, the Congress members said.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter Friday to the State Department asking that the administration insist that the Palestinian Authority (PA) hand over the bullet that killed a journalist last month in Jenin so that the guilty party could be identified.
“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to the forensic evidence in [Shireen] Abu Akleh’s death for an independent investigation so that all parties can reach a definitive conclusion about the events leading to her death, and hold all parties accountable,” said the letter, organized by New Jersey’s Josh Gottheimer.
Abu-Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was reporting for the Al Jazeera network, was gunned down during an IDF arrest operation in the major Palestinian city on May 11. According to the IDF, “hundreds of bullets” were flying at the time between its soldiers and Palestinian terrorists and it was a distinct possibility that she was shot by the terrorists during a gun battle with the Israeli soldiers.
An Al Jazeera colleague who was wounded in the same incident claimed that there was no battle going on in their area at the time and that she was deliberately killed by the IDF.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that any claim that Israeli soldiers had knowingly aimed at the reporter was a “blatant lie.”
The PA refused Jerusalem’s offer of a joint investigation into the death with American observers and blamed Israel, claiming that it had conducted its own investigation. Anti-Israel media and politicians around the world, including CNN, rushed to condemn the Jewish state, as did Al Jazeera.
“Recent sensationalist media accounts of the incident have not served the cause of truth,” the lawmakers’ letter said, arguing that “without access to the bullet that the Israelis have requested as part of an independent investigation, it is impossible to determine all the facts. This obstinate position serves no one, and will preclude any final determination of responsibility. One-sided releases of information will not get us closer to the truth.”
Twenty-five legislators signed the letter, 14 of them Democrats and 11 Republicans.
In contrast, in mid-May, 57 Democratic congressmen had called for the State Department and FBI to launch its own investigation of the journalist, given “conflicting reports” over the incident. It stressed Palestinian claims blaming the IDF exclusively for her death and made no mention of the fact that the soldiers were battling terrorists at the time.
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog issued a statement at the time, saying that he was “disheartened” by the lawmakers’ letter because it “does not offer a fair representation of the case, ignores important context of the events leading to Ms. Abu Akleh’s tragic death and reaches the wrong conclusion.” He also slammed in particular allegations made by Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib.
The U.S. has refused to conduct its own inquiry, preferring the Israeli idea of a joint probe.