Abu Akleh was covering raid in West Bank town when she was shot, killed on May 11
By Jake Gibson , David Spunt
In a rare move, the FBI is investigating the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), seven months after a Palestinian-American journalist was killed in the West Bank.
The investigation, confirmed publicly by Israeli authorities, follows a separate investigation over the summer by the IDF and U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
While the specific origin, or ballistics, of the bullet that killed Shireen Abu Akleh is inconclusive, the agencies determined that it likely came from an IDF position during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.
Abu Akleh was covering a raid in the West Bank town of Jenin when she was shot and killed on May 11. In July, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price released the following statement:
“After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.
“In addition to the forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC was granted full access to both Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations over the last several weeks. By summarizing both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.”
The family of Abu Akleh has kept the issue alive, lobbying U.S. officials for a new investigation.
“I deplore the loss of Shireen,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. “She was a remarkable journalist, an American citizen, as you well know. And there too we are determined to follow the facts and get to the truth of what happened to her.”
Twelve Democratic senators wrote to President Biden over the summer requesting an impartial investigation. The letter was signed by Democratic senator from Maryland Chris Van Hollen.
In an interview with Fox News, he said, “What we want is an independent investigation, and I would hope everyone would want to get to the bottom of this and get to the facts and wherever they lead.
Months after the IDF and USSC had already concluded their investigation, at least one pro-Israel organization questioned the need for the FBI investigation and claimed that the DOJ was caving in to political pressure.
“A follow-up investigation is extremely unlikely to produce any new information. If anything, it appears that this is politically motivated right now “said Jonathan Schanzer, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ vice president of research, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid scoffed at the idea of an FBI investigation into the IDF.
“The IDF soldiers will not be investigated by the FBI, nor by any foreign entity or foreign country, however friendly it may be,” Lapid said. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is likely returning to the job, has expressed similar sentiments.
Both the DOJ and the FBI have declined to comment on the matter.
Van Hollen, who has met with Abu Akleh’s relatives, said they’ve deserved an independent look at the tragedy.
“I’m pro-Israel, strongly pro-Israel, and I think you can be pro-Israel and still want to get the facts regarding the shooting death of an American citizen and journalist,” he said.
Al Jazeera is now asking the Internal Criminal Court to investigate. The FBI would need Israel’s cooperation to run a successful investigation, but Lapid has made it clear that will not happen.