The United States on Monday informed Israel that it decided to investigate the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera reporter who was shot to death during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank's Jenin refugee camp last May.
Initial reports indicated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would conduct the probe.
The decision is a major blow to the Israeli government and law enforcement, translating as a lack of trust in Israel's abilities to conduct its own investigation into the incident. The U.S. investigation could result in demands to investigate IDF soldiers and demand their placement on trial.
Back in May, 57 U.S. congressmen appealed to FBI Director Christopher Wray, demanding to investigate Abu Akleh's death. Israel attempted to convince the U.S. not to launch an investigation, but with no success. No comments were made by the Prime Minster's Office or the Foreign Ministry at the announcement of the investigation.
The decision on the investigation by the U.S. was delivered to the State Attorney's Office, saying that a request for the pertinent case material will soon follow. While Israel did not officially comment on the decision, officials call the decision a "rare event".
The U.S. was involved in the investigation into Abu Akleh's death following the incident in July, via U.S. Security Coordinator General Michael Fenzel, and so should already have the relevant material on the investigation.
Abu Akleh worked for Al Jazeera for 25 years before she was killed while covering an Israeli military raid conducted as part of Operation Breakwater on May 10, 2022.
Israel first claimed that the journalist was caught in the crossfire and shot by Palestinian militants. Then, in September, a report was released by the Israeli army concluding that Abu Akleh was likely hit by its forces, albeit mistakenly.
But her family, as well as much of the Palestinian community, still blame Israeli forces for deliberately targeting and killing her.
“The evidence is overwhelming. It’s been over four months since Shireen was killed. Our family shouldn’t have to wait another day for justice,” Abu Akleh's family said in a statement in September as part of a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“It’s obvious that Israeli war criminals cannot investigate their own crimes. The U.S. still has an obligation to investigate and take meaningful action for one of their own citizens. But when an individual state fails to protect its own citizens, it’s the responsibility of the international community to protect them instead,” they added.
Although the Israeli army conducted its own investigation and acknowledged that the bullet in question was likely fired by an Israeli soldier, it denies the allegations that the journalist was deliberately targeted. The family criticized the army's internal investigation, saying it "tried to hide the truth and avoid taking responsibility."
The evidence the Abu Akleh family attached to the ICC complaint was released by Al-Haq, a Palestinian rights group blacklisted by the Israeli military over its alleged ties to the terrorist group PFLP, as well as the London-based research firm Forensic Architecture.
The report combined spatial and audio analysis, drone footage, geotagged video, and never-before-seen video footage filmed by another reporter at the scene.
Reprinted with permission from i24NEWS.