Scoop: U.S. asked Israel to review IDF's "rules of engagement" in West Bank
The Biden administration wants Israel to review its “rules of engagement” during military operations in the occupied West Bank after the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, three Israeli and U.S. sources briefed on the call told Axios.
Between the lines: U.S. pressure for Israel to review the guidelines is unusual, but comes as the Biden administration faces pressure to do more to ensure accountability in Abu Akleh's death.
- The rules of engagement define the circumstances under which Israeli soldiers can use live fire in the West Bank.
Catch up quick: Abu Akleh was killed in May while covering an Israeli military raid in Jenin. The Al Jazeera correspondent was wearing a bulletproof vest that was marked “press.”
- The Biden administration said earlier this month that Abu Akleh was likely killed by unintentional Israeli fire, but a ballistics test of the bullet fragment removed from her body was "inconclusive."
Driving the news: After meeting with Abu Akleh's family in Washington, Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and asked him to publish the final conclusions of the Israeli military operational investigation into the journalist's death as soon as possible.
- He also asked for a review of the IDF rules of engagement in the West Bank, saying it would be a step toward accountability in the Abu Akleh case, according to the Israeli and U.S. sources.
- Blinken told Gantz he thinks that either the rules of engagement weren't followed or they need to be reviewed if an Israeli soldier shot Abu Akleh while she wore a bulletproof vest that was marked "press," the sources said.
- Gantz told Blinken that situations on the ground are not always black and white during military operations, the sources added.
What they're saying: "As the secretary said, we are calling for accountability for the tragic killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh," said a State Department spokesperson.
- A senior Israeli official said there was no official U.S. request to change the rules of engagement and if there was, Israel would have denied it. “Israel is a sovereign country and the rules of engagement save lives," the official said.
What’s next: The Biden administration is planning to follow up on the call with more talks with the Israelis on the IDF rules of engagement in the West Bank, the Israeli and U.S. sources said.