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Niece of slain Palestinian journalist speaks out on aunt’s killing

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) — The family of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in May while on assignment covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank, wants the United States to conduct an investigation into the fatal shooting so they can get answers — and justice.

Lina Abu Akleh, Abu Akleh’s niece, and her family met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken Tuesday.

“Unfortunately until today, we haven’t seen any meaningful action from the U.S. administration. That’s why we are here as a family in D.C., demanding an investigation, a U.S. investigation that is transparent and credible…all that we’re asking for is justice and accountability. And we do have so many questions that haven’t been answered,” Lina Abu Akleh told ABC News’ Linsey Davis during an interview for ABC News Live Prime.

“He [Blinken] reiterated the same statement as he did previously. Yes, he did show some words of sympathy and condolences but, at the same time, we want to see meaningful action… And at the same time, we asked for more transparency,” said Abu Akleh, who added that the Biden administration has not been helpful in providing additional information about her aunt’s death.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old reporter with many years’ experience covering Palestinian and Arab communities who was a dual Palestinian and American citizen, was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military raid on May 11 in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli Defense Forces said exchanges of gunfire erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, and Abu Akleh, who had been wearing a protective vest identifying her as a member of the press, was shot in the head. She was rushed in critical condition to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

According to Palestinian witnesses, she was killed by Israeli troops despite being a distance from the war zone.

“How can we ensure that [U.S.] taxpayer money that continues to fund the Israeli military annually didn’t go into killing my aunt?” Abu Akleh told ABC News Live Prime.

Abu Akleh said she hopes the meeting with Blinken will lead to a future sitdown with President Joe Biden.

“Meeting President Biden is very important because it will allow us to talk to him directly and for us to understand that he is taking this matter seriously. We will tell him that we want a U.S. investigation. We will tell them that there needs to be accountability,” Abu Akleh says.

“The final moments before she was killed, she was with her colleagues, walking in the area where the crime happened. She was there reporting, on her way to report. The scene was quiet. And that was it. She was shot doing what she loved the most, which is reporting truth, reporting facts and giving voice to the voiceless Palestinians,” Abu Akleh said of her aunt.

The State Department released a statement on July 4 determining that Israeli forces most likely fired the shot that killed Shireen Abu Akleh, but gave no indication that she was shot intentionally.

“We found no reason to believe that this was intentional, but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic jihad,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Lina Abu Akleh said the State Department statement left her family with more questions.

“In the report that they published, Mr. Blinken said that they couldn’t determine intent. So this made us question as to how did they conclude that the shot was not intentional? When he’s telling us that they couldn’t determine intent. So there were clear contradictions with the statements and that’s why all we’re asking for is a U.S.-led investigation that is independent and transparent. At the end of the day, my Aunt Shireen was a U.S. citizen, and this is their duty to protect their citizens and to support us and finding justice and accountability,” Abu Akleh says.

Lina Abu Akleh said she and her aunt had plans to travel together before her aunt’s death and remembers Shireen as funny and compassionate.

“Shireen was one of the most empathetic people I’ve met in my life. She was compassionate. That’s what made her stand out as a journalist. She used her voice to give voice to the voiceless Palestinians… She was very funny. She has a sense of humor that made her stand out. She was so unique and she was fun. She was the cool aunt who I enjoyed traveling, where we even had travel plans — we were supposed to be in the U.S. together now. And not my family alone here trying to fight for justice and accountability. Shireen was someone that will be forever remembered and every Palestinian household,” Abu Akleh said.

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