Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece: ‘US must end Israeli impunity’

Shireen Abu Akleh’s niece: ‘US must end Israeli impunity’

The family of Shireen Abu Akleh have called on the United States to hold Israel accountable for the “killings of American citizens by Israeli soldiers”, and reiterated their demand for a full investigation into the veteran Al Jazeera journalist’s killing.

Abu Akleh, a dual Palestinian-American citizen, was killed by an Israeli sniper on May 11 while covering a military raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

Despite Israeli claims, Palestinian witnesses, journalists and rights organisations said there were no armed fighters in the immediate vicinity of Abu Akleh, or any exchange of fire at the time she was shot.

Abu Akleh’s brother Tony and niece Lina have been at the forefront, demanding the US take concrete action to hold Israel accountable, and have challenged the State Department’s official early July line, which stated that the US had “found no reason to believe that [Abu Akleh’s killing] was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances” during an Israeli army operation against armed Palestinian factions.

The family are set to hold a news conference at Capitol Hill later on Thursday, in their latest step to pursue justice, with members of Congress expected to be present.

The news conference comes two days after they met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, DC.

Despite the family’s appeal, Blinked passed on responsibility, and said a full US investigation into the killing was up to the Justice Department, and not the State Department.

Blinked said he acknowledged the US government’s role and duty to protect every American citizen, adding that he was committed to transparency with the family moving forward.

“I felt like we left the meeting with more questions. And our questions were still not answered,” the 27-year-old Lina Abu Akleh said.

She added that Blinken had declined to refer the family to other US officials who had the authority to undertake such an investigation.

In an op-ed written for The Washington Post, Lina said the family wants to meet President Joe Biden in order for him to demonstrate that her aunt’s case is a priority for the US government.

“My family reiterated our demand that the United States conduct its own investigation into what happened to Shireen, retract its statement from July 4, and be more open and transparent with us,” Lina wrote.

“We are not naive,” she continued. “We know that the United States has failed to conduct its own investigations into previous killings of American citizens by Israeli soldiers and that the US government has helped Israel avoid accountability for decades of grave, systematic human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

Biden refused to meet the Abu Akleh family during his recent trip to the West Bank and Israel.

The family will meet other administration officials, legislators and reporters during their time in Washington, DC.

Shireen Abu Akleh, who lived and worked in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, had spent Christmas with her niece in the US. She was supposed to have spent her summer vacation with her niece and other extended family members back in the US.

“She was a very proud citizen,” Lina said. “And unfortunately, that US citizenship hasn’t been helping her toward getting justice.”