WASHINGTON, June 5 (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen called on Monday for declassifying a government report on the death of Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was shot and killed while covering an Israeli army raid last year.
One of the most recognizable journalists covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for two decades, Abu Akleh was killed in May 2022 during an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. Her death triggered outrage across the region.
Israel says Abu Akleh, who was wearing a clearly marked protective press vest and helmet, was likely unintentionally shot by an Israeli soldier but could also have been struck by Palestinian fire. Abu Akleh’s family believes she was killed deliberately, and witnesses to the incident have said there were no Palestinian fighters firing in the area she was standing.
The U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) conducted an investigation, but the report remains classified. In a statement, Van Hollen, a Democrat on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, said the report contains important insights into her death.
That includes “relevant information and findings about the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces (Israeli military) unit involved in that operation – as well as other IDF units operating in the West Bank,” Van Hollen said.
Van Hollen said that while the USSC team was “unable to conduct an independent investigation” due to lack of access to key witnesses, the report’s public release was still vital to ensuring accountability in the shooting death of a U.S. citizen.
The U.S. State Department, which oversees the USSC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In December, Al Jazeera made a submission to the International Criminal Court over Abu Akleh’s killing. Her family has supported such efforts while urging action by the Biden administration.
Israel insists that its soldiers do not deliberately target journalists and has refused to identify the soldier who may have shot Abu Akleh.