Israeli police officers charged Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, before thousands herded her coffin through Jerusalem’s Old City in an outpouring of grief and anger over her killing.
Huddled 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 walking toward the gates of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Israeli police officers, in an apparent attempt to prevent them from proceeding on foot rather than take the coffin away by car, burst through the courtyard gates and charged into the crowd, some hitting the pallbearers with batons and kicking them.
At one point, the group carrying his coffin backed up against a wall and nearly dropped the coffin, retrieving it just before one end hit the ground as stun grenades detonated.
Adding to the stresses
The violent scenes, which lasted only a few minutes, added to Palestinian outrage over the killing of Abu Akleh, which has threatened to fuel the violence that has escalated since March.
Abu Akleh, who had covered Palestinian and Middle East affairs for more than two decades, was shot while reporting on an Israeli incursion into the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.
The Palestinian authorities have described the killing of Abu Akleh as an assassination by Israeli forces. Israel’s government initially suggested that Palestinian gunfire might have been to blame for her, but officials also said they could not rule out that it was Israeli gunfire that killed her.
Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, had begun throwing stones at officers. “The police were forced to act,” they added.
Qatar and Al Jazeera condemned the conduct of the police. Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking”, and US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was “deeply distressed by the images”, while the UE said it was dismayed.
A few minutes after the police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle heading to the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in the walled Old City of Jerusalem, where the funeral ceremony took place peacefully.
Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow alleys of the Old City as the coffin was carried to nearby Mount Zion Cemetery.
His grave was covered with wreaths and the Palestinian flag hung above the grave’s cross as mourners solemnly surrounded it, paying homage to Abu Akleh.
“We are here because we scream for justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said one mourner, who did not want to be identified by his name.
No conclusion of the initial Israeli investigation
The Israeli army said on Friday that its initial investigation “concluded that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the shots that struck and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”
He may have been killed by Palestinian militants shooting at Israeli military vehicles or inadvertently returned fire by an Israeli soldier, he said.
Israeli forces resumed raids on the outskirts of Jenin on Friday, where Abu Akleh was killed, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians had been wounded.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group has claimed responsibility for the death of an Israeli police officer in an exchange of fire in Jenin.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the events in Jerusalem and Jenin could push the sides into a serious escalation.
Abu Akleh’s death has drawn widespread condemnation. Video footage from the moments after he was shot showed Abu Akleh, 51, wearing a blue vest marked “Press”.
At least two of her colleagues who were with her said they had been attacked by Israeli snipers and were not near the militants.
Israel, which has expressed regret over Abu Akleh’s death, has proposed a joint investigation with the Palestinians, asking them to provide the bullet for examination.
The Palestinians have rejected the Israeli request and have called for an international investigation.