America’s top diplomat met with the reporter’s relatives after the State Department declined to blame Israeli troops for her death
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said those responsible for the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh would be held accountable, as her family members continue to demand action and insist she was killed by Israeli troops.
After meeting with relatives of Abu Akleh on Tuesday, Blinken voiced his “deepest condolences” and made a “commitment to pursue accountability for her tragic killing,” though did not specify what additional steps might be taken.
State Department spokesman Ned Price later stressed “the priority we attach to accountability” in relation to Abu Akleh’s death, but also offered few other details on how the White House plans to proceed or what was discussed during the sit-down with Blinken.
A veteran Al Jazeera journalist, Abu Akleh was shot dead while covering an Israeli raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank last May, despite wearing prominent markings indicating she was a member of the press.
While the United Nations and a series of media outlets and humanitarian organizations investigated the incident and concluded Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli fire, an official US probe said it “could not reach a definitive conclusion” about who pulled the trigger. Though it acknowledged Israeli forces were “likely responsible,” the report said there was no evidence she was intentionally murdered, in line with later comments from Israeli officials.
The journalist’s family was highly critical of the American investigation, saying they were “incredulous” of its inconclusive findings, and has continued to press for consequences for Abu Akleh’s killer.
Following Tuesday’s meeting with Blinken, the journalist’s niece, Lina Abu Akleh, stated that while the official “made some commitments on Shireen’s killing,” her family is “still waiting to see if this administration will meaningfully answer our calls for justice for Shireen.”
“[Secretary Blinken] told us that he has a duty to protect every US citizen. We will hold him to this,” she continued. “Nothing short of a US 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.”
While the Joe Biden administration has made few public statements to date about whether it has pressed Israeli officials on the matter, Blinken reportedly raised the issue in private during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid earlier this month. According to Israeli officials reached by Axios, however, the government has no plans for further action on the case beyond a military investigation already underway, and criminal charges are unlikely.
The Israeli military, for its part, initially suggested the journalist was killed by a Palestinian militant, but later said it was unable to determine who fired the fatal shot. Nevertheless, it stated “conclusively” that Israeli troops harbored “no intention to harm” Abu Akleh and did not deliberately shoot at her during the raid.