US 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.
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 announced 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.”
After meeting with Abu Akleh’s family in Washington, Secretary of State Antony 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 US 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 added.
Gantz told Blinken that situations on the ground are not always black and white during military operations, the sources continued.
“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 stated there was no official US 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 added.
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 US sources noted.