Israel rejected on Wednesday US calls on him to review Israel Defense Forces rules of engagement in West Bank as part of accountability measures for killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
Driving the news: State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said Tuesday that the Biden administration would continue to pressure Israel “to closely review its policies and practices on the IDF’s rules of engagement” in Occupied West Bank.
- He said this was necessary in order “to mitigate the risk of civilian harm, protect journalists and prevent similar tragedies”.
Between the lines: American pressure for Israel review guidelines, which define the circumstances under which Israeli soldiers can fire live ammunition in the West Bank, is unusual. Patel’s comments were the first time the Biden administration has raised the issue publicly after discussing it privately for the past several weeks.
- After meeting Abu Akleh’s family in late July, Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and demanded a review of the IDF’s rules of engagement in the West Bank, saying it would be a step towards accountability in the Abu Akleh case. .
- Blinken told Gantz he believes the rules of engagement were either not followed or should be reviewed if an Israeli soldier shot Abu Akleh while she was wearing a bulletproof vest marked “press” .
State of play: Patel’s comments on Tuesday came a day after Israel released the final findings of its investigation in the death of Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
- The investigation determined that Abu Akleh was most likely killed by “unintentional shooting” by an Israeli soldier who did not know she was a journalist, a senior IDF official told reporters.
- The senior IDF official said the investigation found there were no violations of the rules of engagement and no problems with the briefing the soldiers received before the Jenin raid.
What they say : Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday expressed his “sadness” over Abu Akleh’s death, but said “no one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, as we are the ones fighting for our lives.”
- Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that “the IDF Chief of Staff, and he alone, determines and will continue to determine the rules of engagement in accordance with our operational needs and IDF values.”
- “These instructions are strictly enforced by soldiers and their commanders. There has been and will be no political involvement in this matter,” Gantz said.
Another senior Israeli official told Axios that “the rules of engagement were reviewed as part of the IDF’s investigation and it was found that there were no violations. No one is going to change the rules of engagement because American political pressure.
- Israeli officials believe the US call for a revised rules of engagement is an attempt to respond to pressure from American progressives who have demanded an independent US investigation – something the Biden administration cannot and will not do. the Israeli official said. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
- “The Biden administration isn’t really rushing us because they understand we’re not going to change the rules of engagement,” the official added. “We made our position known to them before and after their public statement on this issue.”