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Two US senators call on Biden to investigate Palestinian-American reporter's death

Utah Republican and Georgia Democrat lead bipartisan demand for the administration to open a transparent probe into Shireen Abu Akleh's killing

Palestinian Sharif Al Azb, who pulled the body of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh from the scene where she was killed during an Israeli military raid, gestures at the scene in Jenin, May 17, 2022. (Photo: REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta)

Two senators sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, urging the Biden administration to open an investigation into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last month. 

The Palestinian-American veteran reporter was shot dead during an IDF counterterrorism raid she was covering in the West Bank city of Jenin. It is still unclear whether the bullet was fired by Israeli soldiers or Palestinian gunmen, although the Palestinian Authority declared it was an Israeli bullet. 

The PA has so far rejected Israel’s request to hand over the evidence of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for examination. 

The plea from the two senators – Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) – did not focus on the controversy over the bullet. In their letter, they stressed that “the killing of a U.S. citizen and of a journalist engaged in the work of reporting in a conflict zone is unacceptable.” 

Romney and Ossoff called on the Biden administration to “ensure a full and transparent investigation is completed and that justice is served” in the case. They demand answers within 30 days, during which President Joe Biden is expected to visit Israel. 

Last week, the Times of Israel quoted a Biden administration official saying that the U.S. would not launch its own probe into the matter, but rather continues provide assistance to both the Israeli government and the PA with their own separate investigations. 

The PA has recently announced the results of its investigation, saying that it shows Israeli forces deliberately shot and killed her. The PA has also filed a complaint against Israel with the International Criminal Court. A highly criticized CNN investigation has reached similar conclusions. 

The IDF called the claim of targeted gunfire “entirely unfounded” and called on the Palestinians to cooperate in a forensic examination along with American representatives to conclusively determine the cause behind Abu Akleh’s tragic death.  

“Assertions regarding the source of the fire that killed Ms. Abu Akleh must be carefully made and backed by hard evidence. This is what the IDF is striving to achieve,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

Romney and Ossoff’s call for an American-led investigation comes after 57 House Democrats urged the FBI to investigate the incident, implying that Israel is likely to fault.

Another bipartisan letter from 25 Congress members also demanded an investigation but placed the blame on the PA for its refusal to cooperate with the Israeli probe. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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