The US Department of Justice has notified its Israeli counterpart that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Walla reported on Monday. Abu Akleh was shot and killed by an Israeli sniper as she covered a military incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on 11 May.
The website quoted three unnamed sources as saying that the FBI investigation into the activities of the Israeli occupation army in the West Bank is unusual and may even be unprecedented. It added that the investigation may lead to an American request to question the soldiers involved in the shooting. The Israeli government will not agree to such a request, it added.
The news has been covered widely by the media in Israel, including Channel 14, Haaretz, Army Radio and Kan. According to the latter, it is possible that the US will ask Israel to hand over specific material regarding the case.
"The decision of the US Department of Justice to investigate the unfortunate death of Shireen Abu Akleh is a grave mistake," said Defence Minister Benny Gantz. "The IDF conducted an independent and professional investigation, which was presented to the Americans who shared the details."
Gantz added that he made it clear to Washington representatives that the FBI investigation will be "interference" in Israel's internal affairs. "We made it clear to the American representatives that we stand behind the IDF soldiers; that we will not cooperate with any external investigation."
Investigations conducted by independent human rights organisations, international media and Palestinian official bodies concluded that Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh was killed by a bullet fired by an Israeli sniper. According to some of the reports, she was targeted deliberately.
Abu Akleh was wearing a bulletproof vest with the word "Press" written very clearly on it, as well as a helmet when she was killed. Her colleagues and eyewitnesses confirmed that no Palestinian fighters were anywhere near at the time, whereas the Israeli soldiers were about 200 metres away.