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December 15, 2022 1:40 pm

Republican Senators Call on FBI to Cease Israel Investigation Over Journalist Killing


avatar by Andrew Bernard

US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) talks to reporters following a classified national security briefing of the US Senate on developments with Iran after attacks by Iran on US forces in Iraq, at the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 8, 2020. Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner.

Eight Republican Senators sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding that the FBI cease its investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operation in May.

The letter, led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), calls for the investigation to be ended “immediately before further harm comes to our bilateral relationship with Israel.”

In September, the IDF released the findings of its investigation that there was a “high probability” that Abu Akleh, a journalist with the Al Jazeera outlet, was “accidentally” killed by IDF gunfire during an exchange of fire with armed Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin. However, the exact source of the gunfire that killed her, including that the possibility that she had been killed by Palestinian gunfire, could not be determined “unequivocally.” Israel’s Military Advocate General concluded there was “no suspicion” of a criminal offense and no military police or criminal investigation was opened.

Wednesday’s letter, which was joined by Senators Cruz (R-TX), Scott (R-FL), Hawley (R-MO), Braun (R-IN), Cotton (R-AK), and Lankford (R-OK), argues that the findings of Israel’s investigation are sufficient to conclude the matter.

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“In light of this, we are dismayed the DOJ and FBI are seeking to disregard Israeli sovereignty by inserting itself into an investigation which has concluded and which U.S. officials participated in,” the letter says. “Moreover, reporting indicates U.S. Ambassador Nides was not informed of DOJ’s decision to investigate. If true, this is wholly unacceptable and represents a breakdown in internal coordination between the agencies. The investigation highlights DOJ and FBI’s overreach and politicization of investigations.”

That sentiment has been opposed by some Democrats. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who in June wrote a letter along with 23 Senate colleagues calling for the FBI to intervene in the case, welcomed the opening of the FBI’s investigation in November. 

“This is an overdue but necessary and important step in the pursuit of justice and accountability in the shooting death of American citizen and journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. I will continue pressing for the full facts and truth in this case,” Van Hollen said on 14 Nov.

Israeli officials have called the investigation a “grave mistake” and said they would not cooperate with the investigation.

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