Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Tuesday with the family of a Palestinian-American reporter killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.
The State Department said Blinken met with relatives of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh and vowed that the U.S. would demand “accountability” for her death.
“The secretary is deeply appreciative of the opportunity to meet with Shireen’s family,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “Not only was she an American citizen, she was a reporter whose fearless pursuit of the truth earned her the profound respect of audiences around the world.”
Price said Blinken would use the meeting “to underscore for Shireen’s family our deepest condolences on her tragic death and to reiterate the priority we attach to accountability, something we continue to discuss with our Israeli and Palestinian partners as well.”
He could not say, however, what that accountability might mean.
After reviewing investigations by Israeli and Palestinian authorities, the U.S. concluded on July 4 that Abu Akleh was likely killed by Israeli fire, although not intentionally. But it has not conclusively blamed Israel for her death and has left the question of accountability to the Israelis, prompting anger from the Palestinians and her family.
Relatives — including her brother Tony Abu Akleh, her niece Lina Abu Akleh and her nephew Victor Abu Akleh — have been seeking a meeting with President Joe Biden to make the case for pressing Israel to account for her death. Blinken invited them to visit Washington after Biden was unable to see them while on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this month.
“We are in Washington, D.C., to insist on a thorough, credible, independent, and transparent U.S. investigation into the Israeli military’s killing of our dear Shireen,” the family said in a statement. It called the July 4 U.S. conclusion “an affront to justice” that “enabled Israel to avoid accountability for Shireen’s murder.”
“This is totally unacceptable to us,” they said. “If we allow Shireen’s killing to be swept under the rug, we send a message that the lives of U.S. citizens abroad don’t matter, that the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation don’t matter, and that the most courageous journalists in the world, those who cover the human impact of armed conflict and violence, are expendable.”
A reconstruction by The Associated Press lent support to Palestinian eyewitnesses who said she was shot by Israeli forces without making a final determination. Investigations by CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post, as well as monitoring by the U.N. human rights office, reached similar conclusions.
Abu Akleh, who was 51, had spent a quarter-century reporting on the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule. Palestinians view her as a martyr to journalism as well as their national cause.