JERUSALEM -- In a letter published Friday, the family of a Palestinian American reporter who was killed covering an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank hit out at President Joe Biden over his response to her death.
Shireen Abu Akleh's relatives expressed grief, outrage, and (a) feeling of betrayal to the U.S. accusing them of trying to exonerate Israel of their loss. An earlier U.S. statement stated that Israeli fire likely killed her, but that Jenin's shooting on May 11 was not accidental.
Biden's next week trip to Israel and the West Bank will be influenced by the fallout from the murder. Biden was asked by the family to meet them in the region. The White House did not respond to the family's request or comment on the letter.
The Associated Press provided support for eyewitnesses from Palestine who claimed that she was shot by Israeli forces. However, no final determination was made. Similar conclusions were reached by CNN, The New York Times, and Washington Post investigations, as well U.N. monitoring of the situation.
Israel claims she wasn't deliberately targeted and that she could have been killed by an Israeli soldier, or a militant from the Palestinians during an exchange of fire. In a July 4 statement, the State Department stated that the bullet that killed her wasn't sufficiently damaged to allow it to be determined who fired it.
According to the statement, the U.S. had concluded that she was likely hit by Israeli fire after analyzing separate investigations by Israel. It found no reason to believe this was intentional, and said it was due to "tragic circumstances."
The U.S. didn't explain how they came to these conclusions, nor did it cite evidence to back them up.
Abu Akleh's family stated that "all evidence" supports the claim that she was intentionally killed by an Israeli soldier. They also claimed that the government had "thoroughly failed" to conduct an independent investigation.
They said that instead, the United States had been "skulking towards the erasure any wrongdoing done by Israeli forces." It is almost as if you expect everyone to just move on. Silence would have been better.
When asked about the letter, Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said that she hadn't yet seen it and declined comment to discuss Biden's travel plans. She stated that Biden is closely following the investigation and that top U.S. officials have been in touch with the family.
We feel their pain. She said that we can't imagine their pain. "We urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to cooperate on the next steps, and we certainly continue to call for accountability."
U.S. legislators have asked the administration to conduct an independent investigation into Abu Akleh's death. Abu Akleh was a veteran correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic language service and was well-known and respected throughout the Arab world.
Abu Akleh was 51 years old and had reported for a quarter century on the harsh realities that Israeli military rule brought to life. She is regarded by Palestinians as a martyr for journalism and their national cause.
The beating of mourners and pallbearers by Israeli police at the funeral for her mother in Jerusalem, May 14, drew wide criticism. A newspaper in Israel reported last month that an investigation by police found some wrongdoing, but that those who oversaw the event would not face serious consequences.
Krauss reported from Ottawa (Ontario). This report was contributed by Darlene Superville, an Associated Press writer in Washington.