The Biden administration wants Israel to review its “rules of engagement” during military operations in Judea and Samaria after the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, three Israeli and US sources briefed on the call told Barak Ravid of Axios on Wednesday.
US pressure for Israel to review the guidelines is unusual, but comes as the Biden administration faces pressure to do more to ensure accountability in Abu Aqleh's death.
The rules of engagement define the circumstances under which Israeli soldiers can use live fire.
Abu Aqleh, an American-Palestinian Arab, was shot dead on May 11 while covering clashes between IDF soldiers and terrorists in Jenin for Al Jazeera.
Israel has stated that without access to the bullet which killed her it is impossible to know which side fired the shot. The Palestinian Authority (PA) initially refused Israel’s request to launch a joint probe to investigate the incident, and instead released the findings of its investigation, claiming that she was shot by IDF forces.
Last month, the PA finally agreed to a forensic investigation by the US of the bullet that they claim killed Abu Aqleh.
The State Department said several days later, based on a probe by the US Security Coordinator (USSC), that Abu Aqleh was likely killed by gunfire from Israeli positions but that it was probably unintentional and it could not be said for certain.
According to Ravid’s report on Wednesday, after meeting with Abu Aqleh's family in Washington last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Defense Minister Benny Gantz and asked him to publish the final conclusions of the Israeli military operational investigation into the journalist's death as soon as possible.
He also asked for a review of the IDF rules of engagement in Judea and Samaria, saying it would be a step toward accountability in the Abu Aqleh case, according to the Israeli and US sources.
Blinken told Gantz he thinks that either the rules of engagement weren't followed or they need to be reviewed if an Israeli soldier shot Abu Aqleh while she wore a bulletproof vest that was marked "press," the sources said.
Gantz told Blinken that situations on the ground are not always black and white during military operations, the sources added.
"As the secretary said, we are calling for accountability for the tragic killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh," said a State Department spokesperson.
A senior Israeli official said there was no official US request to change the rules of engagement and if there was, Israel would have denied it. “Israel is a sovereign country and the rules of engagement save lives," the official said.