US has not been asked to help in probe of reporter’s killing

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JERUSALEM — Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority has formally requested U.S. assistance in the investigation into the killing of a Palestinian-American reporter during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank, the State Department said Wednesday.

An AP reconstruction of the May 11 killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh lends support to Palestinian witnesses who say she was shot by Israeli soldiers. However, Israel and the PA have all of the evidence necessary to reach a final conclusion.

Israel says Abu Akleh was killed during a complex shootout between soldiers and Palestinian militants, and that only ballistic analysis of the bullet — which is held by the PA — and the soldiers’ guns, can determine if one of them fired the fatal shot.

The involvement of a third party could overcome the severe distrust between the sides, allowing for a full and impartial account of what happened. There is no indication that either side will give up control of its investigation.

Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation with the PA, with U.S. participation.

But this week, State Department spokesman Ned Price said he was “not aware of any request for assistance” from either side. Two weeks ago, Abu Akleh was killed. He was asked Wednesday by a reporter if the U.S. would be willing to assist or observe. Price remained faithful to his earlier answer.

“We have made clear to both Israeli and Palestinian authorities that we expect the investigations to be transparent and impartial, a full, thorough accounting into the circumstances of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh,” Price said.

Any American involvement would require a request from both Israel and the PA, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat said “Israeli officials publicly invited the United States to be part of the inquiry.” He added that “similar messages were passed on official channels” but declined to elaborate.

The Palestinian Authority says it is carrying out its own investigation and will share the results with international parties. The Palestinian Authority has not given the bullet back or co-operated with Israel, claiming that it does not trust Israel’s ability to conduct its own investigation.

Within hours of her death, both the PA and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh, but provided no specific evidence for the claim, which Israel strongly denies.

Ballistics analysis could potentially match the bullet to a specific firearm, but only if investigators have access to both. Both Israel and Palestine are not likely to agree with any other side’s conclusions.

Abu Akleh had spent more than 25 years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She was a widely known and respected on-air correspondent for Al Jazeera’s Arabic service, where she reported on Israel’s nearly 55-year military occupation of the West Bank. Palestinians regard her as a martyr for journalism and national struggle.


Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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