US senator urges declassification of report on journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing

US Senator Chris Van Hollen has urged the Biden administration to declassify and release a government report on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The Al Jazeera correspondent was killed on May 11, 2022, while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

Initially, Israeli officials falsely accused Palestinian gunmen of fatally shooting Abu Akleh. However, they later admitted that she was likely killed by an Israeli soldier. Despite this admission, Israel has not opened a criminal investigation into her death, leading to calls for the US to conduct its own investigation and seek accountability.

Van Hollen, who has reviewed the report by the US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC), believes that its public release is crucial for ensuring transparency and accountability. He also stated that the USSC was unable to conduct an independent investigation due to being denied access to key witnesses. Nevertheless, the report offers valuable insights into the incident, including information on the Israeli unit involved in the operation that led to Abu Akleh’s death.

In July 2022, the State Department referenced an initial USSC summary of the investigations carried out by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The summary stated that Israeli gunfire was “likely responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death, though it found no reason to believe the shooting was intentional. This assessment was met with anger from Palestinian rights supporters, who argued that US authorities did not interview witnesses and disregarded the Palestinian Authority’s conclusion that the shooting was deliberate.

The USSC report, which Van Hollen has now reviewed, is thought to be a more comprehensive account of the US government’s findings. However, specific details of the report, including its completion date and contents, remain unknown.

Witnesses, video footage, and investigations by multiple media outlets have concluded that there was no fighting in the immediate vicinity of where Abu Akleh, who was wearing full press gear, was fatally shot. Since then, Van Hollen and other US legislators have called for a US investigation into the incident. Although Israeli and US media outlets reported last year that the FBI was investigating the killing, US authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a probe.

US officials initially called for accountability in the case, including prosecuting Abu Akleh’s killers to the “fullest extent” of the law. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also stated that Washington was seeking an “independent” investigation into the killing. However, the State Department later dropped this demand, instead calling on Israel to review its military rules of engagement—a request that Israeli leaders have openly rejected.

On the first anniversary of Abu Akleh’s killing, her family met with lawmakers in Washington, DC, to renew calls for justice. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib criticised the Biden administration for not only failing to achieve justice for Abu Akleh but also actively working to block any form of accountability. Tlaib suggested that if the administration genuinely wanted to help, they would launch a full State Department investigation into whether US weapons were used to commit this and other war crimes and human rights violations.

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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