Blinken invites family of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to visit US

Secretary of state’s invitation comes as Congress increases pressure on Biden administration to provide more answers on reporter's death

Palestinians walk in front of a mural depicting killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reuters
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday invited to Washington the family of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead during an Israeli army raid.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan revealed the details of the call between Mr Blinken and the family while en route to Israel for President Joe Biden’s first visit to the Middle East.

“Secretary Blinken actually spoke with Shireen’s family a short while ago. He has invited the family to the United States to be able to sit down and engage with them directly,” Mr Sullivan said.

Abu Akleh, a veteran Palestinian-American reporter with Al Jazeera, was fatally shot on May 11 while covering an Israeli raid in the West Bank.

A US statement on July 4 said a bullet fired from an Israeli military position was “likely responsible” for her death, but the US Security Co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority said there was “no reason to believe that this was intentional”.

Mr Sullivan reiterated the US government's belief “that it is most likely that her death was caused by an [Israel Defence Forces] soldier”.

He added that “there will have to be efforts made and accountability and making sure that we find a way to conclude this chapter justly”.

The UN determined last month that the shot that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli forces.

The family's invitation to the US comes as congressional pressure grows on the Biden administration to deliver clear answers about the journalist's death.

On Monday, four high-ranking Democratic senators, Chris Van Hollen, Patrick Leahy, Chris Murphy and Dick Durbin, wrote a letter to Mr Blinken asking for a follow-up on the investigation.

“While we were glad to see the United States Security Co-ordinator involved in an independent forensic analysis of the bullet that killed Ms Abu Akleh, that hardly constitutes an independent investigation into the overall circumstances of her killing,” they wrote.

The letter includes 13 questions on the steps and methods the US Security Co-ordinator used during its probe and how the administration will “ensure accountability” for the reporter's death.

Last month, a group of 24 senators called on Mr Biden to ensure the direct involvement of the US in the investigation.

Mr Biden will be visiting the Palestinian territories and meeting President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

Updated: July 13, 2022, 4:13 PM