Israeli police officers charged on Friday with Palestinian mourners who carried the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh before thousands guided her coffin through Jerusalem’s Old City in an outpouring of grief and anger over her murder.
Wrapped around Abu Akleh’s coffin, dozens of Palestinians, some waving Palestinian flags and chanting “with our soul and blood we will redeem you Shireen,” began to march toward the gates of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Israeli police officers stormed through the courtyard gates and attacked the crowd, some beating porters with batons and kicking them.
At one point, the group carrying her coffin leaned against a wall and nearly dropped the coffin, just before one end hit the ground as stun grenades exploded.
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The violent scenes, lasting just minutes, added to Palestinian outrage over the Abu Akleh assassination, which threatened to fuel the violence that has increased since March.
Abu Akleh, who has covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades, was gunned down Wednesday while reporting an Israeli attack on the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian authorities have described the assassination of Abu Akleh as an assassination by Israeli forces. The Israeli government initially suggested that Palestinian fire could be to blame, but officials have also said they could not rule out the possibility of her being killed by Israeli gunfire.
Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, had started throwing rocks at officers. “The police officers were forced to intervene,” she added.
The White House found the images disturbing, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, and US officials will remain in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the wake of Akleh’s funeral.
“Every family deserves to have their loved ones rest in a dignified and unhindered manner,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
We were deeply disturbed by the images of Israeli police intruding on the funeral procession of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to allow their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unfettered way.
Egypt, Qatar and Al Jazeera condemned the actions of the police. Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the scenes were “extremely shocking”. The EU said it was shocked.
Minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle bound for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where the funeral ceremony took place peacefully.
Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow alleys of the Old City as the coffin was carried to the nearby Mount Zion cemetery.
Her grave was covered with wreaths and the Palestinian flag draped over the funerary cross as mourners solemnly surrounded it, in tribute to Abu Akleh.
“We are here because we are crying out for justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said one mourner, who declined to be named.
No conclusion from first Israeli investigation
The Israeli military said Friday that the initial investigation “concluded that it is not possible to unequivocally establish the source of the gunfire that struck and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”
She may have been killed by shots fired by Palestinian militants firing at Israeli military vehicles, or accidentally hit by an Israeli soldier who fired, it said.
The Palestinian attorney general’s office on Friday released a statement saying that preliminary investigations revealed that the only source of gunfire in the area where Abu Akleh was wounded was Israeli.
In a statement agreed by consensus on Friday, the 15-member UN Security Council strongly condemned the killing and called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation”.
Israeli forces on Friday resumed attacks in the suburbs of Jenin, where Abu Akleh was killed, and the Palestinian health ministry said 13 Palestinians were injured.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, meanwhile, has claimed responsibility for the death of an Israeli police officer in a shootout in Jenin.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said events in Jerusalem and Jenin could lead to serious escalation of the parties.
Abu Akleh’s death has led to widespread condemnation. Video footage taken moments after she was shot showed Abu Akleh, 51, wearing a blue vest that read ‘Press’.
At least two of her colleagues who were with her said they had come under Israeli sniper fire and were not close to militants.
Israel, which has expressed regret over Abu Akleh’s death, has proposed a joint investigation with the Palestinians and asked them to provide the bullet for investigation.
The Palestinians have rejected the Israeli request and have called for an international investigation.