Human rights advocates decry 'organized whitewash' of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Human rights advocates on Monday derided the Biden administration's assertion that Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was "likely"—but unintentionally—killed by an Israeli soldier, with one group accusing the U.S. State Department of complicity in a "whitewash" of the reporter's death.
In a statement released on the July 4 holiday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that "independent, third-party examiners... could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin" of the "badly damaged" bullet that fatally struck the 51-year-old Al Jazeera correspondent in the face as she covered an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on May 11.
The U.S. Security Coordinator concluded that while Israeli fire "was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh," it "found no reason to believe that this was intentional, but rather the result of tragic circumstances" that occurred during a military operation against Palestinian militants.
In response to the U.S. statement the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said, "As far as Israel is concerned, its policy regarding the killing of Palestinians has never been anything other than an organized whitewash meant to enable the continuation of the killings with impunity, and it is no different when it comes to a U.S. citizen as in the current case."
"The odds that those responsible for the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh will be held to account are all but nonexistent," the group added. "Meanwhile, Israel's international impunity remains unchallenged."
Israeli officials initially blamed Palestinian militants for killing Abu Akleh. However, separate investigations by United Nations officials, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Associated Press, CNN, Bellingcat, and B'Tselem all concluded that she was shot by an Israeli soldier.
Abu Akleh's colleague Ali Sammoudi, who was also shot during the incident but survived, told Haaretz that the U.S. statement "is yet another proof that the United States can't be trusted with anything that has to do with the Palestinians."
"I was there personally and witnessed the whole thing," he added. "There was no one there apart from the Israeli force, and they were the ones who shot at us."
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate claimed Abu Akleh was the 86th journalist to be killed while covering Israeli operations in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem since the territories were illegally occupied in 1967.
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