Middle East Eye / August 18, 2022
US secretary of state called Israel’s defence minister with the request after meeting with family of slain journalist, according to US website.
The Biden administration has requested that Israel review its “rules of engagement” during military operations in the occupied West Bank, following the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Axios reported citing Israeli and US sources.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and asked him to publish the final conclusions of the Israeli investigation into the journalist’s death as soon as possible.
He also asked for a review of the Israeli forces’ rules of engagement in the West Bank, saying it would be a step toward accountability, Israeli and US sources told Axios.
Blinken told Gantz he thinks that either the rules of engagement were not followed or they need to be reviewed if an Israeli soldier shot Abu Akleh while she wore a bulletproof vest that was marked “press,” the sources said.
Gantz then told Blinken that situations on the ground are not always black and white during military operations, the sources added.
Blinken’s call with Gantz took place after he met with Abu Akleh’s family in Washington late last month. The family came to the US capital to meet with the Secretary of State after Biden ignored a call to visit the family during his visit to Jerusalem.
“Any family of a US citizen who is killed abroad expects their government to put their resources behind an investigation. This is the very least the Biden administration must do,” Abu Akleh’s niece Lina said during a press conference following the family’s meeting with Blinken.
“We made this demand clear to Secretary Blinken, but he did not make any promises.”
Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic, was killed on 11 May while covering an Israeli military raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Since the killing, investigations by Middle East Eye, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, as well as international bodies and the United Nations, concluded that Israeli forces had likely killed Abu Akleh.
The State Department last month announced its conclusion on the killing, saying that while it was likely that Israeli fire killed Abu Akleh, the US had “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances”.
The administration’s conclusion was met with uproar from Palestinian advocates, as well as several members of US Congress who called on the FBI to launch its own probe into the killing.
A senior Israeli official said there was no official request from the US to change the rules of engagement and if there was, Israel would have rejected it.
“Israel is a sovereign country and the rules of engagement save lives,” the official said.
Sources told Axios that the Biden administration is planning to follow up on the call with more talks with Israel on the rules of engagement.