LONDON: The US Department of State’s handling of the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has sparked widespread social media outrage.
After summarizing both Israeli and Palestinian Authority investigations, the US Department of State concluded on Monday that gunfire from Israeli positions “was likely responsible for Shireen Abu Akleh's death,” but dismissed the incident as an unintentional “result of tragic circumstances.”
Eyewitnesses and multiple investigations by US media outlets, including CNN, the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times, have previously concluded that Israeli forces fatally shot Abu Akleh.
Investigations and video evidence also confirm that there were no armed Palestinians in the area where Abu Akleh was killed, and she and other journalists were wearing visible press gear.
Even so, the US statement emphasized that the Israeli raid was aimed at extremist fighters, which was in response to previous attacks by Palestinian assailants.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected “the US' dismissal of the Israeli occupying forces” intentional targeting and killing of Shireen Abu Akleh as "tragic circumstances" rather than an intentional war crime.
“We are incredulous,” Abu Akleh’s family said in a statement published on social media.
“To say that this investigation, with its total lack of transparency, undefined goals, and support for Israel’s overall position is a disappointment would be an understatement,” her family said.
Palestinian rights advocates have also taken to social media to express their indignation at the US announcement.
“This is a shameful day for the US, which failed to properly investigate the murder of one of its own citizens by a military it sends $3.8 billion to every year” the Jewish Voice for Peace tweeted.
The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem said: “As far as Israel is concerned, its policy regarding the killing of Palestinians has never been anything other than an organized whitewash meant to enable the continuation of the killings with impunity, and it is no different when it comes to a US citizen as in the current case.”
MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan tweeted: "Where is the outrage from the Biden administration? Where is the urgency to find out how an American citizen was shot & killed? And how long will the US continue to give Israel a pass on, apparently, everything?"
Abu Akleh's family has stated that regardless of the investigation's findings, they will continue to fight for justice and accountability for her death.
“It’s very disappointing but at the same time, it’s not discouraging. We will continue to fight for justice. We will continue to fight for accountability and an end to this impunity because this result, that we received today, just adds on to the impunity that Israel enjoys,” the family said.
“But we will not be discouraged and we will continue on our path for justice and accountability,” the family added.
Al Jazeera has already referred the case to the International Criminal Court, and has vowed to seek justice through all international legal avenues.
Abu Akleh's family, the International Federation of Journalists, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, and the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians have directed the legal team to file a new complaint with the ICC.
The complaint requests that the ICC prosecutor investigate the circumstances surrounding Abu Akleh's death and Samoudi's shooting.
Israel claims it is not bound by the court's mandate because it did not sign the Rome Statute, and that the ICC cannot investigate abuses in Palestinian territories because Palestine is not a state.
However, the ICC ruled on February 5, 2021 that its criminal jurisdiction extended to "the situation in Palestine," and that its territorial scope included allegations made in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to the lawyers.
The new complaint follows an April submission to the court in which the ICC prosecutor requested that an investigation into the systematic targeting, maiming, and killing of journalists, as well as the destruction of media infrastructure in Palestine, be launched, the legal team says.
Abu Akleh was killed just days after the ICC prosecutor acknowledged receipt of the first complaint.
“This presents for the first time a real opportunity for the accountability of Israel’s alleged policy of targeting journalists and could lead to a formal investigation by the ICC prosecutor and potential prosecutions,” the lawyers' statement said.
More than 100 celebrities and artists have signed a statement demanding accountability for Israel's killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in the immediate aftermath of the killing.
Actors Mark Ruffalo, Tilda Swinton, Susan Sarandon, Steve Coogan, and Miriam Margolyes, as well as filmmakers Asif Kapadia, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and former footballer Eric Cantona, were among those who expressed they were “deeply disturbed” by her death.
As a result, an ICC investigation set on an international stage is expected to continue attracting global attention.