The niece of Shireen Abu Akleh said her family is “very disappointed” at the US State Department statement that said independent investigators could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the bullet that killed the Al Jazeera reporter on May 11 but said they remain undeterred in their fight for justice and accountability.
On Monday, the State Department said investigators had found Israeli military gunfire was “likely responsible” for Abu Akleh’s death, but that forensic analysis showed no reason to believe that the shooting was intentional.
“Yes, Shireen was killed intentionally,” said Lina Abu Akleh, the niece of the slain Al Jazeera journalist.
“The entire investigation is disappointing considering the fact we [were] not aware of any of the process; there was no transparency. We were not given enough information regarding the investigation and we found out about it last minute,” she told Al Jazeera from Geneva.
Abu Akleh was shot in the head while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, despite wearing a flak jacket and helmet clearly marked “Press”.
Palestinian officials, international rights groups and media outlets carried out their own independent investigations that concluded that Abu Akleh was killed by the Israeli military.
The United Nations human rights office last month said that information it had gathered showed that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh was fired by Israeli forces. Several witnesses said Israeli forces killed the Palestinian American journalist.
Abu Akleh’s family said that irrespective of the probe’s findings they will continue to fight for justice and accountability for her killing, her niece said.
“It’s very disappointing but at the same time, it’s not discouraging. We will continue to fight for justice. We will continue to fight for accountability and an end to this impunity because this result, that we received today, just adds on to the impunity that Israel enjoys,” she said.
“But we will not be discouraged and we will continue on our path for justice and accountability.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that “independent” examiners had undertaken an “extremely detailed forensic analysis” of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh after it was handed over by the Palestinian Authority.
According to the Times of Israel newspaper, Israel examined the bullet in the presence of a US representative.
The State Department said that the bullet was too badly damaged to reach a conclusive determination, and while it was likely fired by Israeli forces, there was “no reason to believe” Abu Akleh was deliberately targeted.
“From day one, Israel has been trying to change the narrative and using the bullet has been one of their many narratives. But this is not the end,” Lina Abu Akleh said.
That the report found the bullet was likely fired by Israeli forces “does provide us with some kind of a cold comfort but that’s not enough,” she said.
“We still continue to call for a transparent and just investigation, and we call on the UN, especially the ICC [International Criminal Court] to handle the case of Shireen with the same enthusiasm it has been showing to Ukraine – as is rightfully so,” she added.
“We still call for accountability. We still call for justice. And for the US to actually carry out an independent investigation, free from any political pressure, and to provide its citizen, Shireen Abu Akleh, the right investigation that she deserves as a [US] citizen.”
Lina Abu Akleh also said that the media and broader civil society had a role to play to ensure that justice is found and those responsible for the killing are held accountable.
“All journalists should also take up their platforms and continue to advocate because Shireen, at the end of the day, was a journalist and she was targeted, and she’s not the first journalist and not the last [that will] be killed by Israeli forces,” she said.