UK calls for ‘immediate and impartial’ probe into Al Jazeera journalist death

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UK calls for ‘immediate and impartial’ probe into Al Jazeera journalist death

Government minister Vicky Ford tells MPs the Foreign Secretary has 'stressed' the need for a 'thorough investigation' into Shireen Abu Aqleh's death while working in the West Bank

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Minister for Africa Vicky Ford
Minister for Africa Vicky Ford

The UK has called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation” into the killing of an Al Jazeera journalist while working in the West Bank, a government minister has told MPs.

Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had “in company with the other members of the United Nations Security Council, strongly condemned the killing” of Shireen Abu Aqleh last week during a gun fight between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

Ford said the UK government had “stressed the importance of an immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation.”

She added:”We also stressed the need to ensure accountability.”

Her remarks came in response to an urgent question tabled by Labour’s shadow middle east minister Bambos Charalambos who told the Commons the “killing was not only an outrageous act, but an attack on the freedom of the media and the independence of journalists working around the world, playing a crucial role in reporting conflicts, seeking truth and telling the stories of those affected.”

He added:”On Friday, deeply disturbing footage was released from Shireen’s funeral.

“The scenes of violence at the funeral were appalling: Israeli police were seen firing teargas at mourners and attacking them with batons, almost causing the pallbearers to drop the coffin and send it crashing to the ground.

“The attacks on mourners were indefensible and only heightened demands for justice and the pain felt by Shireen’s family.”

During a debate MPs from all parties offered criticism of Israel over the killing, although Harrow East MP Bob Blackman noted:”Clearly there is a concern that we do not know exactly what happened on that terrible day when the journalist was killed. ”

But Tory MP David Jones claimed:”There can be absolutely no doubt as to what happened at the funeral, when mourners and pallbearers were attacked by Israeli police officers.”

Labour’s Naz Shah added:”This is not just the story of Shireen either, but many other journalists, including the 55 Palestinian journalists killed since 2000.”

She said:”How can the Palestinians have any faith in Israel to hand over any bullet and with this whitewash of an idea that they are going to investigate when nobody has been held to account over lots and lots of years?”

Shah added, the Palestinians are “continually being brutalised.”

Defending Israel, Robert Halfon raised the fact “a Hamas leader recently incited the Palestinians to act in ways of terrorism with the use of the knife and the gun.”

The Jewish MP asked the minister: “What is she doing to help the Israelis to combat terrorism and these awful murders of Israeli citizens?”

Riverside Labour MP Kim Johnson suggested “an international criminal court should undertake a full independent, not just impartial, investigation, and that swift action should be taken to bring those responsible to justice.”

Crispin Blunt, the Tory MP who announced he is standing down at the next election, said the killing of Abu Aqleh was”almost certainl by a targeted shot coming from the forces who are in illegal occupation of a Palestinian territory.”

He then asked “how long we must wait for the United Kingdom to actually do anything to enforce accountability on the state of Israel for its gross and worsening breach, over 55 years, of the fourth Geneva convention, while noting the shaming contrast with our own brave and principled policy towards Ukraine?”

Labour Friends of Israel’s parliamentary chair Steve McCabe told MPs that “as I understand it Shireen Abu Aqleh was killed during a gun battle.”

He added “the facts have not yet been established, and the Palestinians have rejected an offer of a joint investigation with the Israelis. ”

Andrew Percy MP noted “the recent terror attacks on innocent Israelis, which are increasingly being directed from the West Bank by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. ”

For the Liberal Democrats Layla Moran suggested Israeil police had “the day before they had stormed Shireen’s house” also “disturbed the wake and took a Palestinian flag from the room.”

She added:” It is disgraceful, and it is a clear provocation.

“I ask the Minister simply this: has she summoned the Israeli ambassador to make it clear how unhelpful to the peace process this is?”​

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