Los Angeles Times
Family, Blinken discuss slaying
Palestinian American journalist’s relatives want more action from U.S. officials.
WASHINGTON — The family of slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen abu Akleh was in Washington on Tuesday to lobby officials for justice and a full accounting of the veteran reporter’s death during an Israeli military raid in May.
Abu Akleh’s uncle, niece and other relatives met for several hours with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and members of Congress, including Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The family said after the visit that it remained disappointed and frustrated.
“We are here to demand justice and a credible investigation by the U.S.,” the journalist’s niece Lina abu Akleh, 27, said in an interview after meeting with Blinken. “Only the U.S. can hold Israel accountable. They have the power.”
She said she emerged with “no promises, no commitments” from Blinken.
Shireen abu Akleh, 51, was wearing a flak jacket emblazoned with the word “PRESS” when she was shot in the head during a raid on the Palestinian city of Jenin.
Israel initially said it believed Palestinians had fired the deadly shot. But investigations by the United Nations, several U.S. news outlets and a U.S. government-led team concluded the opposite.
Still, U.S. officials have treaded gingerly in assigning blame, fueling the family’s frustration.
The State Department’s most definitive statement, released July 4, said the shot “most likely” came from Israeli “positions.”
The statement said there was no indication that the shot was intentional, but it is not clear how that conclusion was reached, because the soldiers involved in the incident were not interviewed.
Lina abu Akleh said Blinken offered the family condolences, “transparency” and “better communication,” but did not promise any concrete actions.
“We want the soldier who pulled the trigger held accountable,” she said. “We want the person who gave the command held accountable. We want to change the system that allowed this to happen.”
Later, she said in a tweet that Blinken “told us that he has a duty to protect every U.S. citizen.”
“We will hold him to this,” she said. “Nothing short of a U.S. investigation that leads to real accountability is acceptable, and we won’t stop until no other American or Palestinian family endures the same pain we have.”
The Israeli military continues to occupy or hold sway over parts of the West Bank, where dozens of Palestinians have been killed this year, along with a smaller number of Israelis.
Blinken did not immediately comment on the meeting. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the U.S. continues to press for a “credible, transparent” investigation, but that it was leaving Israel to take the lead.
“It’s our collective goal to do everything we possibly can, working with our [Israeli and Palestinian] partners, to see to it that something like this cannot happen again,” Price said.
Shireen abu Akleh was a veteran reporter in the Palestinian territories who had worked for Al Jazeera television for a quarter of a century. She was a household name to Palestinians throughout the region.
Her relatives believe Israeli forces targeted her deliberately, based on evidence showing gunfire continued even after she was languishing on the ground. Israel denies she was singled out.
“She was the voice of Palestine,” her niece said. “The voice of truth, uncovering Israeli crimes.”