Israel confirms US probe of Abu Akleh killing, calls it ‘grave mistake’

An FBI probe into Israeli actions would be a rare, if not unprecedented, step.

Protesters hold posters for slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh near the Augusta Victoria Hospital in east Jerusalem ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden, July 15, 2022. (AP)

JERUSALEM- Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Monday the US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the fatal shooting of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, condemning the probe as a “grave mistake” and vowing not to cooperate.

A US Justice Department spokesman had no comment and there were no details about when an investigation might begin and what it would entail, nor what the ramifications of it might be. But an FBI probe into Israeli actions would be a rare, if not unprecedented, step.

An American investigation would follow months of pressure from Abu Akleh’s family and US lawmakers disappointed with the inconclusive findings of a previous US State Department assessment and Israeli military investigation into the death of the prominent correspondent last May. Abu Akleh’s supporters accuse Israel of intentionally killing the 51-year-old and have urged Washington to open a full investigation.

The revived debate about the Abu Akleh killing comes at a time when Israel is bracing for the formation of its most right-wing government in history and as progressive Democrats in the US have called for a more sceptical stance towards Israel. The probe would directly challenge Israel’s claims that it properly holds its soldiers to account for their actions in the Palestinian territories.

Gantz lambasted what he described as the opening of a US Justice Department probe into Abu Akleh’s killing, saying on Twitter that Israel has made it clear to the US “we won’t cooperate with any external investigation.”

“We will not allow interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added. Gantz, who is set to leave his post following elections earlier this month that vaulted Israel’s former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu back to power, served as defence minister when Abu Akleh was killed.

Palestinian officials, Abu Akleh’s family and Al Jazeera accuse Israel of intentionally targeting the veteran reporter. She was wearing a helmet and a protective vest marked with the word “press” when she was shot while covering an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp.

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