Shireen Abu Aqleh
Shireen Abu Aqleh Reuters

Key US lawmakers remain dissatisfied with the IDF’s investigation into the circumstances of the killing of Palestinian Arab-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh and are demanding the Biden administration take further action on the subject, Haaretz reported on Sunday.

The IDF’s report, released earlier this month, found that it was not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire from which Abu Aqleh was hit and killed. The report said that there is a high possibility Abu Aqleh was accidentally hit by IDF gunfire, but it is also possible that she was hit by gunfire from Palestinian Arab terrorists.

Not satisfied with the conclusion, Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen and Patrick Leahy are attempting to require an independent State Department investigation into the matter, according to Haaretz.

The two have introduced an amendment, along with Senators Dick Durbin, Chris Murphy, Jeanne Shaheen and Jeff Merkley, which includes unprecedented language calling on the U.S. to see “whether section 620M of the FAA applies” to Abu Aqleh’s case within 180 days. This is separate from the amendment passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week that would require the State Department to provide senators with the July report overseen by the United States Security Coordinator.

The language in Leahy and Van Hollen's amendment refers to the so-called “Leahy Law,” which prohibits military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights, noted Haaretz. The law is named after the veteran Vermont Senator, who has stated that “an independent, credible investigation – meaning not by the IDF and not by the Palestinian Authority – but with their full cooperation, must be conducted and the findings made public. Whether her killing was intentional, reckless, or a tragic mistake, there must be accountability. And if it was intentional, and if no one is held accountable, then the Leahy Law must be applied.”

If a legally mandated and credible State Department investigation found that Israel committed an extrajudicial killing in violation of Leahy Law, according to US law, then the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor would get involved and essentially sanction the IDF unit in question from US military assistance. It is unclear, however, how the Leahy Law would operate in practice given how foreign military financing to Israel is legally stipulated.

The chances this amendment will eventually pass Congress as part of an end-of-year omnibus package are slim, noted the Haaretz report.

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.

The 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.

Eventually, the PA finally agreed to a forensic investigation by the US of the bullet that they claim killed Abu Aqleh.

Members of Abu Aqleh’s family recently met Secretary of State Antony Blinken to demand justice for her death. Lina Abu Aqleh, Shireen Abu Aqleh's niece, posted on Twitter after that meeting that family members wanted to meet President Joe Biden himself and that anything short of a US investigation that led to accountability was unacceptable.

Blinken later spoke with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and raised the issue of Abu Aqleh in the conversation.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated the administration’s belief that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to enjoy equal measures of security, freedom, and democracy. The Secretary also raised the tragic killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the need for accountability,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time.