WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is questioning Israel's decision not to open a criminal investigation into the shooting death by Israeli security forces of a Palestinian-American teenager earlier this year.
In a letter sent this week to religious groups that had raised concerns about the case and obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East said the United States continues to have concerns about the death of 16-year-old Mahmoud Shalan. Shalan, who was born in Florida, was killed in the West Bank on Feb. 26 by Israeli troops who said he had tried to stab them. Several groups took issue with that account and complained that the soldiers had used excessive force and denied Shalan medical treatment after he was shot. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv asked Israeli authorities to conduct an investigation into the matter.
In the letter, the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, Anne Patterson, said the U.S. was later informed that the Israeli Military Advocate General "did not find that the soldiers' actions gave rise to reasonable grounds for suspicion of criminal conduct." The advocate general then ordered the case closed "without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved in the incident," she wrote.
Subsequently, Patterson said U.S. officials were allowed to review the evidence compiled by the Israelis, including photographs of the scene. Based on that review, she said: "We continue to have concerns about the death of this American citizen and will remain engaged with the government of Israel on this issue."
A U.S. official said American diplomats had privately raised concerns with Israeli authorities about the decision not proceed with a criminal investigation into Shalan's death. The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The groups that Patterson wrote to have long expressed concerns about Israeli security forces' treatment of Palestinians. Some have urged that the U.S. review its security assistance to Israel under the provisions of the so-called Leahy law, which can bar aid to foreign forces believed to have committed human rights abuses.