JERUSALEM — Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that the US Justice Department has opened an investigation into the fatal shooting of Palestinian-American Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akle, denouncing the investigation as a “serious mistake” and vowing not to cooperate.
A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and there were no details on when the investigation might begin, what it would entail, or what its consequences might be. But an FBI investigation into Israel’s actions would be a rare, if not unprecedented, move.
The US inquiry is to come after months of pressure from Abu Akleh’s family and US lawmakers frustrated by the inconclusive findings of a State Department preliminary assessment and an Israeli military investigation into the death of the prominent correspondent last May. Abu Akle’s supporters accuse Israel of deliberately killing the 51-year-old and call on Washington to launch a full investigation.
But the investigation risks upsetting the strong US-Israeli partnership at a time when Israel is preparing to form its most right-wing government in history and progressive Democrats in the US are calling for a more skeptical stance towards one of Washington’s leaders. closest allies. This would directly challenge Israel’s claims that it is properly holding its soldiers accountable for their actions in the Palestinian territories.
Gantz criticized what he called the US Justice Department’s opening of the investigation into Abu Akleh’s murder, saying on Twitter that Israel had made it clear to the US that “we will not cooperate with any external investigation”.
“We will not allow interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added. Gantz, who is set to step down after an election earlier this month that returned former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to power, was serving as defense minister when Abu Akle was killed.
A Jerusalem-based Palestinian who covered Israeli operations in the occupied West Bank for a quarter of a century, Abu Akle was a household name among many Arabs in the Middle East. Her death sparked worldwide outrage, putting a spotlight on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Palestinian officials, Abu Akle’s family and Al Jazeera accuse Israel of deliberately targeting the veteran reporter.