In what seems to be a change of tune following pressure from a journalist, US Secretary of State has now called for an “independent” probe into the murder of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, after previously demanding mere “transparency”.
The United States has called for an independent investigation into the killing of a prominent Palestinian journalist after a top official was heckled at a conference.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on stage earlier this week when an American journalist interrupted the event to question him about the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli sniper while covering raids in Jenin.
“Secretary Blinken, what about Shireen Abu Akleh? She was murdered by Israeli forces,” journalist Abby Martin asked.
“These are your two greatest allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Israel,” she said, also referring to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
“They have murdered American journalists and there have been absolutely no repercussions and you’re sitting up here talking about the freedom of the press and democracy.
“Why is there no accountability for Saudi Arabia or Israel for murdering journalists?” she asked.
Responding to the questions, Blinken described American citizen and Al Jazeera correspondent Abu Akleh and as “remarkable” and said he “deplored” her murder.
“We are determined to follow the facts and get to the truth of what happened,” he said, though he denied any details of the incident have been conclusively established.
“We are looking for an independent, credible investigation. When that investigation happens, we will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he added, though the US official fell short of clarifying which party or group should conduct this probe.
Blinken’s comments come just days after US Republican senator Mitt Romney called for transparency into the killing of the veteran journalist, echoing similar statements from the US State Department.
Abu Akleh, long known for her Al Jazeera reports from the occupied territories, was killed on 11 May by an Israeli sniper. Palestinian authorities say she was deliberately targeted despite clearly identifying as a member of the press.
As Tel Aviv’s key ally, and with Abu Akleh’s status as a US citizen, the Biden administration has faced ongoing global pressure in the aftermath of her killing. This was exacerbated when shocking scenes from her funeral showed Israeli forces attacking pallbearers carrying her coffin.
At the time of her killing, Israeli authorities were quick to attempt to distort the facts of the incident, claiming armed Palestinians in the vicinity may have shot her.
However, authorities were quickly forced to backtrack on the claims following testimonies from eyewitnesses at the scene of the incident.
Reports by Israeli media had said Israel refuses to conduct a criminal investigation into the killing despite the occupation forces (IOF) soldier admitting to the crime.
Despite claiming that he did not see Abu Akleh through his car, investigations revealed that the journalist was shot in an area that was not covered by her protective gear. Last month, an investigation by the Palestinian Authority (PA) further proved that the IOF soldiers deliberately shot and killed Abu Akleh.
Palestine’s foreign ministry also submitted a letter to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over ongoing crimes against Palestinians, urging an investigation into the assassination of Abu Akleh.
Al Jazeera’s Washington Bureau Chief Abderrahim Foukara also told an informal UN Security Council meeting in May to conduct an investigation.
“Al Jazeera’s position is crystal clear, Shireen Abu Akleh’s life matters, and so does a transparent and independent investigation of her killing and of the serious violation of her funeral by the Israeli security forces,” Foukara told the council, as quoted by the network.
Since then, calls for a transparent investigation intensified, given that the Israeli court regularly backs the apartheid state‘s crimes against Palestinians.
Speaking to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos last month, Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani slammed double standards in addressing the killing of Abu Akleh.
“The Palestinian-American journalist was killed two weeks ago in Palestine, and then robbed, of a dignified-burial. Shireen was covering the suffering, of the Palestinian people for decades, and our hearts, are broken,” said the Qatari leader.