The family of slain Palestinian American journalist Shirin Abu Akle was in Washington on Tuesday to lobby officials for justice and a full account of the veteran reporter’s death during an Israeli military raid in May.
Abu Akle’s uncle, niece, and other relatives met for several hours with Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken and members of Congress, including the senator. Robert Menendez (DN.J.), influential chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The family said after the visit that they were left disappointed and upset.
“We are here to demand justice and a credible investigation from the United States,” the journalist’s niece, Lina Abu Akle, 27, said in an interview after meeting with Blinken. “Only the US can hold Israel accountable. They have power.”
She said she had “no promises or commitments” from Blinken.
Although Shirin Abu Akle was wearing a flak jacket with “PRESS” written on it, she was shot in the head during a raid on the Palestinian city of Jenin. Initially, Israel stated that it believed the Palestinians had fired the fatal shot. But investigations by the UN, several US news outlets, and finally by a US government-led group came to the opposite conclusion.
But U.S. officials are being cautious in putting the blame on those responsible, disappointing the family.
In its most forceful statement, released on July 4, the State Department said the shot “most likely” came from Israeli “positions.” It says there is no indication that the shot was “intentional” but does not explain how such a conclusion was reached, as the soldiers involved in the incident were not interviewed.
Lina Abu Akle said Blinken offered condolences and promised “transparency” and “better communication” with the family, but no concrete action.
“We want the soldier who pulled the trigger to be held accountable,” she said. “We want the person who gave the command to be held accountable. We want to change the system that allowed this to happen.”
She later tweeted that Blinken “told us he has a duty to protect every US citizen.”
“We’ll keep him on that,” she said. “Nothing short of a US investigation that will lead to real accountability is unacceptable and we will not stop until no other American or Palestinian family has experienced the same pain as we have.”
The Israeli military continues to occupy or control parts of the West Bank, where dozens of Palestinians and fewer Israelis have been killed this year.
Blinken did not immediately comment on the meeting. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US continues to press for a “credible and transparent” investigation but has left Israel to take the lead.
“Our common goal is to do the best we can by working with our [Israeli and Palestinian] partners to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Price said.
Abu Akle was a veteran reporter in the Palestinian territories who spent a quarter of a century on Al Jazeera. She was a household name for Palestinian families throughout the region.
Her relatives are convinced she was deliberately targeted by Israeli forces because of evidence showing that the shooting continued even after she languished on the ground. Israel denies that she was chosen.
“She was the voice of Palestine, the voice of truth, revealing the crimes of Israel,” Lina told Abu Akle.