WASHINGTON - Fifty-seven U.S. lawmakers on Thursday demanded the U.S. State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigations launch an investigation into the death of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and FBI Director Christopher Wray, the lawmakers — one fourth of all House Democrats led by Reps. Andre Carson, Lou Correa and Bill Pascrell — noted they were "deeply concerned" by her death, highlighting the conflicting reports from the Israeli military and international media and eyewitnesses to the Al Jazeera journalist's killing.
"As an American, Ms. Abu Akleh was entitled to the full protections afforded to U.S. citizens living abroad," the lawmakers wrote, urging Blinken and Wray "to uphold the values that our nation was founded on, including human rights, equality for all, and freedom of speech. We have a duty to protect Americans reporting abroad."
While the letter has been circulating for several days, its delivery and publication come hours after Haaretz reported the Israeli army's Military Police Criminal Investigation Division does not plan to investigate the fatal shooting, despite widespread international pressure.
- In the ‘Investigation’ Into Shireen’s Death, Too, No One Will Be Found Guilty
- Israel Needs to Open an International Investigation and Issue a Statement of Regret
- Neither Israelis nor Palestinians Care Who Killed Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
"Journalists worldwide must be protected at all costs," they wrote, welcoming both the State Department's description of her killing as “an affront to media freedom” and its actions and statements to date supporting a thorough investigation by the Israeli government.
"However, given the tenuous situation in the region and the conflicting reports surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, we request the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) launch an investigation into Ms. Abu Akleh’s death," they wrote. "We also request the U.S. Department of State determines whether any U.S. laws protecting Ms. Abu Akleh, an American citizen, were violated."
In a statement issued in response to the letter Ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Herzog said he was "disheartened" by its publication adding: "This letter does not offer a fair representation of the case, ignores important context of the events leading to Ms. Abu Akleh’s tragic death and reaches the wrong conclusion."
Herzog went on to defend IDF operations in Jenin, like the one in which Abu Akleh was killed, saying Israel is fighting a "deadly wave of Palestinian terror attacks." The ambassador also said the lawmakers ignored Israel's request for a joint investigation in their letter, which, he said, "gives room to the false impression that Israel opposes a genuine investigation."
Herzog concluded his statement by saying that instead of sending "unconstructive messages, truth and justice would be better served by calling on the P.A. to give Israel access to the bullet and allow for the completion of the investigation with the U.S. in an observer role."
The Israeli military, meanwhile, announced it identified a soldier's rifle that may have been used to kill Abu Akleh, though it could not be certain until Palestinian officials provide the fatal bullet for analysis.