Sun, 04 Jun 2023

Israel has refused to cooperate with an American investigation into the killing of veteran Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh

The White House has told the Israeli government it was not behind the FBI's decision to investigate the death of a Palestinian-American journalist killed during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank last May, according to Axios. The probe has reportedly stoked outrage among some officials in Israel, which dubbed the move a "grave mistake."

Senior officials from the White House and State Department reached out to Israel in recent days in apparent efforts to distance the Joe Biden administration from the newly opened FBI investigation into Abu Akleh's killing, Axios' Barack Ravid reported on Wednesday, citing three unnamed US and Israeli officials. 

Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz confirmed reports of a US inquiry earlier this week, calling the decision "a grave mistake" while insisting the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had already carried out "a professional, independent investigation." He added that Israel would not cooperate with any new probe.

The Israeli military's own investigation was completed in September and concluded the journalist was likely killed by unintentional fire from an Israeli soldier, but claimed a ballistics test on a bullet fragment retrieved from her body was "inconclusive" and that it could not rule out gunfire from Palestinian militants.

Abu Akleh was wearing a vest indicating she was a member of the press at the time she was fatally shot. Palestinian officials, the journalist's family, as well as her former employer Al Jazeera argue she was deliberately targeted by the IDF, which has previously been accused of intentionally firing on reporters covering the Israel-Palestine conflict.

A separate US-led investigation into Abu Akleh's shooting - which occurred during an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the West Bank town of Janin and left another journalist with less severe injuries - also determined an Israeli soldier likely fired the bullet that killed her, but noted there was "no reason to believe this was intentional." 

Though that prior assessment largely lined up with Israel's own findings, the new FBI probe has reportedly triggered indignation among top officials behind the scenes, with Israel's National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata, ambassador to the US Mike Herzog and Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz each calling their US counterparts to demand an explanation.

"We spoke to every Biden administration official we work with and made it clear how furious we were," a senior Israeli staffer told Axios.

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