- Rep. Ilhan Omar denounced the killing of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
- Omar called for Israel to be held accountable for “human rights violations.”
- Abu Akleh, a longtime Al Jazeera journalist, was shot dead on Wednesday while covering Israeli raids in the West Bank.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota on Wednesday denounced the killing of veteran Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and called for Israel to be held accountable.
“She was killed by the Israeli military, after making her presence as a journalist clearly known,” the progressive lawmaker tweeted. “We provide Israel with $3.8 billion in military aid annually with no restrictions. What will it take for accountability for these human rights violations?”
Abu Akleh, a longtime journalist for Al Jazeera who was a household name throughout the region, was shot dead in the West Bank on Wednesday while covering Israeli raids in the city of Jenin.
Al Jazeera said in a statement that Israeli forces killed Abu Akleh, condemning it as “a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms.” The news outlet also said that Abu Akleh was wearing press gear that clearly identified her as a journalist when she was killed. Eyewitness reports from her colleagues at the scene and the Palestinian National Authority also said Israeli forces shot and killed Abu Akleh.
Israeli officials did not claim responsibility for the killing. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Abu Akleh could have been shot by Palestinians. Later, Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Aviv Kochavi said it’s currently “not possible” to determine who she was killed by, and said the matter will be investigated, according to CNN.
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan also spoke out against the murder on Wednesday.
“When will the world and those who stand by Apartheid Israel that continues to murder, torture and commit war crimes finally say: ‘Enough’?” she wrote on Twitter.
“Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered by a government that receives unconditional funding by our country with zero accountability,” Tlaib added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki denounced the killing on Wednesday but did not explicitly call out Israel.
“We are heartbroken to learn of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, and injuries to producer Ali Samoudi, today in the West Bank. We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends, and strongly condemn her killing,” Psaki tweeted.
“We call for an immediate and thorough investigation and full accountability. Investigating attacks on independent media and prosecuting those responsible are of paramount importance,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet.
“We will continue to promote media freedom and protect journalists’ ability to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats to their lives or safety, or unjust detention. Her death is a tragic loss and an affront to media freedom everywhere,” Psaki went on to say.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday signaled that the Biden administration will not call for an independent investigation into the killing. “The Israelis have the wherewithal and the capabilities to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation,” Price told reporters during a press briefing.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a “thorough, objective investigation” into Abu Akleh’s killing, decrying it as a “horrific tragedy.”
The killing comes amid a tough period in US-Israel relations. Though it was long taboo to express criticism of Israel in Washington, progressive Democrats in recent years have become increasingly critical of the Israeli government over its treatment of Palestinians.
A number of these critics have called for the US to begin conditioning aid to Israel in relation to the occupation and peace process. This has placed President Joe Biden at odds with segments of the Democratic party when it comes to Israel, and he’s faced pressure from such lawmakers to take a firmer stance against human rights violations by the Israeli government.
This growing intraparty schism regarding US-Israel relations became especially apparent during the Israel-Hamas conflict last year as Biden faced fierce criticism from lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As the Biden administration expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself amid the fight, Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives accused the president of ignoring the underlying causes of the violence — as well as what they viewed as disproportionate military actions by Israeli forces.
Top human rights groups have accused both Israel and Hamas of committing apparent war crimes during last year’s fighting. The 11-day conflict in May 2021 saw 260 Palestinians killed in Gaza, including at least 129 civilians and 66 children, per the UN. Twelve Israeli civilians were also killed during the same period.
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