Family of Slain Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh Demands 'Real Accountability' in Blinken Meeting

The Abu Akleh family called for a new U.S.-led investigation into the Palestinian-American reporter's death during an Israeli raid in Jenin in May. 'Secretary Blinken told us that he has a duty to protect every U.S. citizen. We will hold him to this,' her niece said

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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A Palestinian girl holds a poster showing slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, at a protest in Jerusalem during U.S. President Joe Biden's visit, earlier this month.
A Palestinian girl holds a poster showing slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, at a protest in Jerusalem during U.S. President Joe Biden's visit, earlier this month.Credit: AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – The family of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh received "some commitments" in a Tuesday meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, but are waiting to see if the Biden administration will "answer their call for Justice for Shireen."

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The family reiterated their demand for a new U.S.-led investigation into her killing, and according to Abu Akleh's niece, Lina, "Secretary Blinken told us that he has a duty to protect every U.S. citizen. We will hold him to this."

"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," Lina Abu Akleh wrote on Twitter following the meeting.

She added that the family expressed to Blinken "how important it was to meet with U.S. President Biden. A meeting with him will demonstrate to our family that Shireen’s case is a priority for this administration. Since he didn’t meet with us in Jerusalem, we came to D.C. We need him to hear from us directly."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Blinken was "deeply appreciative of the opportunity to meet with Shireen's family. Not only was she an American citizen, she was a reporter whose fearless pursuit of the truth earned her the profound respect of audiences around the world."

Price added that Blinken extended "deepest condolences on her tragic death and to reiterate the priority we attach to accountability, something we continue to discuss with our Israeli and Palestinian partners."

The family of Shireen Abu Akleh leaves the State Department in Washington, DC, onTuesday, following a meeting with Secretary Blinken.Credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY - AFP

Abu Akleh, a veteran Al Jazeera reporter, was killed on May 11, during an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp. At least five major international media outlets have since published detailed investigations of the case, all showing that Israel was likely responsible for the deadly shooting. An Israeli military probe, though, failed to reach a clear conclusion.

In early July, the U.S. State Department said that an analysis of the bullet that killed her "could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding [its] origin." It did, however, say that Israeli soldiers were likely responsible for the killing.

The American statement, according to the family, is "an affront to justice, and enabled Israel to avoid accountability for Shireen’s murder," adding it was "totally unacceptable."

"If we allow Shireen’s killing to be swept under the rug, we send a message that the lives of U.S. citizens abroad don’t matter, that the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation don’t matter, and that the most courageous journalists in the world, those who cover the human impact of armed conflict and violence, are expendable," the Abu Akleh family continued in a statement issued ahead of the meeting with Blinken.

The Biden administration has faced pressure from within the Democratic Party to take the lead in the investigation into Abu Akleh's killing. Over the course of several months, 57 House Democrats and 25 senators demanded Washington pursue accountability over the killing. After the State Department's early July statement, progressive Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to issue legislation forcing the administration to lead a new probe.

Six of the most senior senators in the Democratic caucus — all considered close Biden allies and staunch Israel supporters — wrote a pair of letters on the eve of Biden's Middle East visit saying the State Department statement wasn’t adequately sufficient in pursuing accountability in Abu Akleh’s death, pushing the administration to continue involving itself in an independent investigation.

The administration, meanwhile, has strongly indicated that it will not involve itself in an investigation, but will instead push Israel to publicly release the findings of its own investigation while encouraging cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

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