Welch Delivers Remarks Marking the Second Anniversary of the Death of Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

May 8, 2024

Statement of Sen. Peter Welch
on the 2nd Anniversary of the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh
Remarks as Prepared
May 8th, 2024

Madam President, May 11th will mark the second anniversary of the fatal shooting of Palestinian-American and accomplished Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.  She was shot in the head while reporting on an Israeli raid in the Jenine refugee camp in the West Bank.  At the time of her death, she was wearing a bullet proof vest with PRESS written in large letters on the front and back. 

While there had been earlier exchanges of gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants, no credible evidence has been produced that the shooter acted in legitimate self-defense. No one in Shireen’s immediate vicinity was armed, and no shots were fired from her location.  Another journalist near her was also shot, but he survived. 

Shortly after Shireen’s death, Secretary of State Antony Blinken rightly called for a credible, thorough investigation and that the individuals responsible be held accountable.  Israeli officials first denied responsibility, but when it became clear where the shots were fired from, they called Shireen’s death an unintentional, tragic mistake.  The shooter reportedly fired from an armored vehicle, 190 meters away.  

The inescapable conclusion is that she was intentionally targeted.  The question is why?  My predecessor, Senator Patrick Leahy, asked detailed questions about her case, including why the Leahy Law was not applied to stop U.S. assistance to the unit responsible for Shireen’s death.  His questions were never answered.

Since then, there has been no credible investigation.  I am disappointed that Israeli authorities have failed to fully cooperate with U.S. efforts to determine what happened. 

Nobody has been held accountable.

Shireen Abu Akleh’s case has become one of many unresolved shootings in the West Bank and Gaza.  Since Hamas’ attack on October 7th, more than 140 journalists have reportedly been killed in Gaza.  None of those cases have been investigated and no one has been punished.

We have not, and will not, forget Shireen Abu Akleh.  She was an American citizen.  More importantly, she was an innocent civilian doing her job, for which she paid with her life.  She, her family, and her colleagues in the press deserve justice. 

On May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, Secretary Blinken said:

“In their pursuit of truth, journalists often face unprecedented danger worldwide. On World Press Freedom Day, we recognize their bravery, resilience and vital role in ensuring the free flow of accurate information. Our support for journalists and an independent media is unwavering.”

Secretary Blinken should use his influence and insist on the credible, thorough investigation of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh that he called for two years ago, and that those responsible be brought to justice.   

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