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House letter calls for ‘independent investigation’ of Abu Akleh death

A bipartisan group of 24 House members penned a letter pushing Blinken to urge the PA to turn over the bullet that killed the Palestinian-American journalist

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Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) speaks on Iran negotiations at a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 06, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

A group of House lawmakers is set to send a letter on Friday calling for an “independent investigation” of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and urging the Palestinian Authority to turn over evidence to assist the inquiry.

Twenty-four House members — 14 Democrats and 10 Republicans — have signed onto the letter, organized by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and obtained by Jewish Insider, to Secretary of State Tony Blinken encouraging him to take steps to facilitate an independent inquiry into the Al Jazeera reporter’s death.

“The Palestinian Authority was quick to ‘reject and refuse the participation of any Israelis in this kind of investigation,’” the letter reads, citing an Al Jazeera report. “Without access to the bullet that the Israelis have requested as part of an independent investigation, it is impossible to determine all the facts. This obstinate position serves no one, and will preclude any final determination of responsibility. One-sided releases of information will not get us closer to the truth.”

The letter adds that “Recent sensationalist media accounts of the incident have not served the cause of truth. Only an independent investigation can resolve this situation, and provide solace to the families and all parties.”

Abu Akleh was killed in the West Bank town of Jenin during a raid by Israeli Defense Forces. The PA has accused Israel of intentionally killing Abu Akleh. Her employer, Al Jazeera, blamed Israel and has urged the International Criminal Court to investigate.

Israel has said Abu Akleh’s death occurred during an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants and that it cannot conclusively determine who the shooter was without the provision of the bullet that killed the reporter, which the PA has withheld.

“We urge you to ask the Palestinian Authority to provide access to the forensic evidence in Abu Akleh’s death for an independent investigation, so that all parties can reach a definitive conclusion about the events leading to her death, and hold all parties accountable,” the letter reads.

A larger group of lawmakers — 57 House Democrats — urged the FBI and State Department to launch their own investigation of Abu Akleh’s killing, a proposal the Biden administration has rejected. U.S. officials have urged the PA to share the bullet with Israel.

The letter is still circulating for additional signatures, a source familiar with the situation told JI, but is expected to be sent on Friday.

Signatories to the letter include Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Darren Soto (D-FL), Peter Meijer (R-MI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Juan Vargas (D-CA), David Joyce (R-OH), Jared Golden (D-ME), Dan Meuser (R-PA), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), David Valadao (R-CA), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Young Kim (R-CA), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Steven Horsford (D-NV) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX).