Foreign Minister Yair Lapid protested to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday that the investigations by the Palestinian Authority and CNN into the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s death were “biased.”
The two top diplomats spoke about the recent escalation in violence in Israel that included the killing of Abu Akleh and the subsequent outcry surrounding Israel police forces’ actions during her May 13 funeral.
Lapid objected to the “biased investigation of her death by the Palestinian Authority as well as the so-called ‘investigation’ by CNN,” according to an Israeli readout of the phone conversation.
Lapid also emphasized that Israel will share the results of its own investigation into her death with the US, as is standard practice between the two countries.
The US State Department said in its readout of the call that Blinken “underscored the importance of concluding the investigations into the death of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh.”
Lapid’s protest came after Palestinian investigators determined that a bullet fired by Israeli troops killed Abu Akleh, accusing soldiers of intentionally shooting her during a battle with gunmen in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) at a press conference in Jerusalem, March 27, 2022 (Foreign Ministry)
Israel has said it cannot yet definitively say whether Israeli troops or Palestinian gunmen fired the fatal shot and immediately rejected the finding that Abu Akleh was targeted.
“Any claim that the IDF intentionally targets journalists or those uninvolved [in terror] is a crude and blatant lie,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.
Gantz added that Israel regrets Abu Akleh’s death, noted that the military is conducting its own probe into the matter, and reiterated Israel’s request that the PA make the bullet available for ballistic analysis so that a definitive determination can be made on who fired it.
The military has said it needs access to the bullet, which the PA holds, to determine whether Abu Akleh was struck by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier or Palestinian gunmen. Palestinians have rejected cooperation with Israel in the probe, citing distrust, amid wide international condemnation over the death of the popular veteran reporter.
Palestinian Salim Wad points out bullets holes left from a gunbattle between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers in a set of narrow alleys some 300 meters (yards) from where veteran Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed, in the West Bank city of Jenin, May 19, 2022. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Abu Akleh was shot dead while covering clashes between soldiers and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF operation in the West Bank city of Jenin earlier this month.
The CNN investigation, published on Thursday, suggested that the IDF fired at Abu Akleh on purpose. The report said it used audio and video analysis, as well as eyewitness testimony, to claim that the reporter was fired at from 200 meters away. Eyewitnesses cited in the report said they believed Israeli forces fired deliberately at the reporters in a targeted attack. The IDF said the allegation was “entirely unfounded.”
The US has said it will not carry out its own investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, an American citizen, a Biden administration official told The Times of Israel last week.
Instead, the US will continue advising the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority on their own respective probes into the May 11 incident. “We’re helping them review how they investigate,” the official said, declining to elaborate further on the matter.
Lapid and Blinken also spoke of common efforts to confront global challenges, including those posed by Iran and its proxies, according to US State Department spokesman Ned Price. Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel’s security and emphasized US support for a two-state solution.
Lapid expressed to Blinken his shock at the May 24 massacre at an elementary school in Ulvade, and conveyed on his own behalf and on behalf of the State of Israel his condolences to the American people following the recent shootings in both Texas and Buffalo, the Foreign Ministry said.
The two discussed President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, and the possibilities for regional progress in the fields of security, the economy and ties between the people of the Middle East, the ministry said, as well as global challenges including dealing with Iran and its terrorist proxies.