A relative of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh said the Biden administration's top diplomat refused her face-to-face appeal to push for a full U.S. investigation into the killing of the veteran television correspondent.
Niece Lina Abu Akleh also said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. officials declined in meetings with her this week to provide any more information than they had already made public about how Americans reached earlier findings about the killing.
A July 4 statement issued by the State Department concluded that Israeli forces likely fired the shot that killed Shireen Abu Akleh in May, but that there was no indication Israelis intentionally shot the veteran Al Jazeera correspondent.
The 51-year-old reporter, an American citizen, was highly respected in the Arab world for her decades covering Palestinians and other Arab communities.
"You cannot determine the intent from just examining the bullet. There are so many other evidences that need to be examined and investigated to conclude intent and unfortunately. Stating that there was no one qualified to reach that conclusion is damaging. And it's also very unprofessional, to say the least," Abu Akleh's 27-year-old niece told The Associated Press in an interview.
She pressed lawmakers for help in obtaining more answers.
Abu Akleh was shot and killed while covering an Israeli military raid on May 11 in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian witnesses, including her crew, say Israeli troops killed her and that there were no militants in the immediate vicinity or any exchange of fire at the time she was shot.
Israel denies its forces deliberately targeted her, but says an Israeli soldier may have hit her by mistake during an exchange of fire with a militant.
U.S. security officials subsequently examined the results of separate Palestinian and Israeli investigations.
That led to Price, the State Department spokesman, releasing the early July statement that Americans "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." (The acronym refers to Israeli defense forces.)
U.S. officials have given no details on how they reached that decision.
Lina Abu Akleh said she asked Blinken that question when she met with him. He responded, she said, by saying, "There was no one qualified to say if it was intentional or not."
"Then why would they release a statement as such?" she asked Wednesday. "That is very damaging to the truth."
When she requested a U.S.-led investigation, she said Blinken said that decision was up to the Justice Department and not the State Department. She said Blinken declined to refer the family to other U.S. officials who had authority to undertake such an investigation.
A family statement released after the U.S. announced its earlier conclusion called the explanation "insulting" and pointed to America's strong ties with Israel, an important ally.
Lina Abu Akleh was the family's main voice this week during the Washington trip to meet with administration officials, legislators and reporters.