US senator demands declassification of report on Shireen Abu Akleh's killing by Israel

US senator demands declassification of report on Shireen Abu Akleh's killing by Israel
Senator Chris Van Hollen, who has repeatedly called for a full investigation into the fatal shooting of Shireen Abu Akleh, has asked for the declassification of a US report on the incident.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
07 June, 2023
Calls continue for a full and transparent international investigation into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. [Getty]

A US senator is calling for the declassification of a US report on the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces on 11 May 2022. 

After reviewing the report on the fatal shooting death of Abu Akleh produced by the United States Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Senator Hollen issued a statement calling for the report's declassification.

"Following my viewing of the USSC report, I urge the Administration to immediately declassify it in its entirety," he said in a public statement issued by his office on Monday. 

"I strongly believe that its public release is vital to ensuring transparency and accountability in the shooting death of American citizen and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and to avoiding future preventable and wrongful deaths – goals we should all support," he continued.

Live Story

Abu Akleh, who worked for 25 years for Al Jazeera, was reporting for the news outlet in May last year in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin during an Israeli raid when she was fatally shot in the neck. Fellow reporters and multiple residents who witnessed the incident said she was shot by an Israeli soldier, which the Israeli military has acknowledged was highly probable. However, a full and transparent international investigation has not been conducted.

In his statement, Van Hollen emphasised his appreciation for the investigation by the USSC, which he described as being objective and professional. However, he pointed to what he saw as significant gaps in the report, notably the investigators not being granted access to key witnesses.

"Based on information previously provided to me by the State Department, the USSC and his team were not granted access to key witnesses and therefore were unable to conduct an independent investigation into the shooting death of Shireen Abu Akleh," he wrote. "As such, this summation report does not and cannot shed new light on the state of mind of the individual responsible for firing the fatal shot."

Still, he believes the declassified report could be helpful in gaining insights into the circumstances surrounding Abu Akleh's fatal shooting. 

He noted that the report "does provide very important insights into the circumstances that led to Shireen Abu Akleh's wrongful death, including relevant information and findings about the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) unit involved in that operation – as well as other IDF units operating in the West Bank."

In spite of the report's limitations, or perhaps because of that, Van Hollen believes it is necessary.

Live Story

"In the aftermath of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, Secretary Blinken has asked the Government of Israel to review the IDF rules of engagement in the West Bank, but he has been rebuffed – such a review remains necessary," he wrote.

Van Hollen has repeatedly issued statements calling for an independent and transparent investigation into Abu Akleh's death, including last month on the one-year anniversary of the shooting. 

Rights groups are commending Van Hollen's initiative, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations issuing a statement of support.

"We support and applaud Senator Van Hollen’s call for the Biden administration to fully declassify the report into the Israeli military’s brazen murder of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh," said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR's national deputy director. 

"The Israeli sniper who took Ms Abu Akleh's life must be held accountable by our government, which must also stop enabling the far-right Israeli apartheid government's escalating human rights abuses against the Palestinian people."