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US senator calls on Biden to release findings about killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

June 6, 2023 at 10:47 am

A group of activists and journalists held a candlelight vigil outside the White House in Washington as part of the first anniversary of the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11, 2023 [Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency]

A US senator has called on US President Joe Biden and his administration to release its findings about the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian American journalist who was shot by an Israeli soldier while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank on 11 May last year.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (Democrat, Maryland) is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said that a report prepared by the US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority provides relevant information about the “the conduct of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) unit involved in that operation as well as other IDF units operating in the West Bank.”

Van Hollen said that the public release of the report “is vital to ensuring transparency and accountability in the shooting death of American citizen and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and to avoiding future preventable and wrongful deaths – goals we should all support.”

Israel shoots dead Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, during invasion of Jenin - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Israel shoots dead Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, during invasion of Jenin – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

The senator has been pressing the US State Department for nearly a year to see the classified report compiled by Security Coordinator Michael Fenzel and his team in the aftermath of Abu Akleh’s killing. Last week, Senator Hollen obtained a commitment from Barbara Leaf, the State Department’s top official for the Middle East, that he would finally be able to see the report.

“It’s not an independent investigation, but it is a review of different reports, and I’m interested in what his [Fenzel’s] findings are,” explained Van Hollen. “My overall interest is to accomplish what the president has said he wants to accomplish. Which is two things, one is to reduce risks to journalists in conflict zones but also, what the administration says they’re seeking as well, which is accountability in the shooting death of an American citizen and a journalist.”

The Democrat senator has made repeated calls for an independent investigation into Abu Akleh’s death, and criticised the security coordinator’s inability to access key witnesses which would provide more details about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. “This summation report does not and cannot shed new light on the state of mind of the individual responsible for firing the fatal shot,” he said.

Al Jazeera journalist Abu Akleh was shot and killed in the Palestinian city of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank. Senator Hollen earlier criticised President Joe Biden’s administration for failing to investigate the killing of the US citizen. “I am concerned that the administration is not giving this the attention it deserves. We have called for accountability about an American journalist who got shot and killed,” he said during a Senate sub-panel hearing to examine the role of China in the Middle East.

READ: Israel has killed 20 journalists since 2001, but nobody has been held to account