WASHINGTON – Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mitt Romney, a Jewish Democrat and a noted pro-Israel Republican, on Monday issued a bipartisan demand for the Biden administration to ensure a full and transparent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
"We insist that the Administration ensure a full and transparent investigation is completed and that justice is served for Ms. Akleh’s death," wrote the bipartisan senators, who did not explicitly mention Israel nor the Palestinians, in the letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Ossoff, who highlighted his Jewish heritage during his Senate run, has been intentional and deliberate when delving into Israel-related matters over the past two years. Romney, meanwhile, has been a long-standing Israel ally for decades. Their shared name-brand recognition will undoubtedly provide considerable heft toward calls for U.S. involvement in the investigation — particularly ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's slated visit to Israel in July.
Ossoff and Romney demanded a detailed update into American efforts within 30 days, stating "the killing of a U.S. citizen and of a journalist engaged in the work of reporting in a conflict zone is unacceptable. All over the world, journalists pursue truth and accountability at great personal risk. Press freedom is a core American value, and we cannot accept impunity when journalists are killed in the line of duty."
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The senators' letter comes days after a separate bipartisan demand from 25 House lawmakers castigated the Palestinian Authority for refusing to hand over the fatal bullet to Israel for investigation.
“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to the forensic evidence in Abu Akleh’s death for an independent investigation so that all parties can reach a definitive conclusion about the events leading to her death, and hold all parties accountable,” wrote the 14 Democrats and 11 Republicans led by Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
"Without access to the bullet that the Israelis have requested as part of an independent investigation, it is impossible to determine all the facts," the lawmakers continued, adding "this obstinate position serves no one, and will preclude any final determination of responsibility. One-sided releases of information will not get us closer to the truth."
The Gottheimer-led letter followed a CNN report suggesting that Abu Akleh was killed by deliberate Israeli fire, citing footage, forensic findings, sound analysis of the gunshots and eight eyewitness accounts. President Isaac Herzog called the CNN report "fake facts." Fifty-seven House Democrats, meanwhile, demanded a State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigations-led probe into the killing, highlighting conflicting reports from the Israeli military and international media, as well as eyewitnesses to the Al Jazeera journalist's killing.
"We urge the Israeli government to swiftly conclude their investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh. We expect full accountability for those responsible for her killing, and we have urged that the sides share their evidence with each other to facilitate that investigation. We continue to call on all sides to maintain calm and to prevent further escalation," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said last week after Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, respectively.