US senator calls to declassify American report on Al Jazeera journalist’s death

Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said its release “is vital to ensuring transparency and accountability” in the death of Shireen Abu Akleh.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen called Monday for the White House to release an official American report on the accidental killing of a reporter last year during a firefight between the IDF and Palestinian terrorists in Jenin.

The administration should “immediately declassify” last month’s summation report of the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) on the May 2022 death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian journalist with American citizenship, “in its entirety,” the Maryland Democrat said.

“I strongly believe that its public release is vital to ensuring transparency and accountability … and to avoiding future preventable and wrongful deaths – goals we should all support,” he added.

Van Hollen criticized Israel’s refusal to let the USSC team interview “key witnesses,” seemingly referring to the IDF soldiers who were involved in the clash. Saying that the report provides “very important insights” about how this IDF unit and others “operate in the West Bank,” he also noted that Israel had rejected Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for the IDF to rethink its rules of engagement in the region.

“Such a review remains necessary,” he said.

For over a year, since the beginning of a serious uptick in terror attacks, IDF forces have been going on almost-nightly raids in Judea and Samaria to arrest suspects and confiscate illegal weapons. Just last week, 32-year-old Meir Tamari was murdered in a drive-by shooting in an attack for which the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, affiliated with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, took credit.

Jenin is a hotbed of terrorism, and the IDF force came under attack when it entered the city looking for wanted men last May. The PA and Al Jazeera, Abu Akleh’s employer, claimed no Palestinians were shooting in the area where the journalist had been standing, clearly marked as a member of the press – a claim that the IDF contested.

The internal Israeli investigation into her death, which American officials were allowed to observe, concluded that the badly mangled bullet that hit Abu Akleh could not be proven to have come from an Israeli weapon, although “likely.” The Israeli government apologized last month for her death.

Van Hollen is a qualified Israel supporter. Although the 64-year-old legislator has gone on record backing Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, he consistently calls for applying the “two-state solution” to the Palestinian-Israel conflict and is strongly supported by the left-wing J-Street advocacy group.

Read  WATCH: Helmet cam footage from IDF counter-terror raid in Jenin

While saying that he opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that targets Israel, he does not support anti-BDS legislation, citing First Amendment concerns.

In March, Van Hollen criticized Israel when the government voted to roll back the Disengagement Law to enable Jews to return to the four settlements in northern Samaria that had been destroyed in the 2005 disengagement.

Last month, he led 15 colleagues in a letter to Blinken stating that Israel should be allowed to join the Visa Waiver Program only if all U.S. citizens are allowed free travel to Israel, “regardless of national origin, religion, or ethnicity.” He cited problems that American Palestinians or Muslim tourists have had at Israel’s borders, which have generally stemmed from Israel’s security concerns.