The US and EU led an international outcry today after Israeli police attacked the funeral procession in Jerusalem of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and beat up pallbearers who nearly knocked over her coffin.
Thousands of people packed Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday for the funeral of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist, two days after she was killed in an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank.
Television footage showed pallbearers struggling to prevent Shireen Abu Akleh’s coffin from falling to the ground as baton-wielding policemen charged at them, grabbing Palestinian flags from mourners.
The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the scenes, while the European Union said it was “dismayed” by the “unnecessary force”.
The Jerusalem Red Crescent said 33 people were injured, of whom six were hospitalized. Israeli authorities said six arrests were made after mourners threw “stones and glass bottles”.
Israel and the Palestinians exchanged blame for the death of Abu Akleh on May 11, who was shot in the head during the Israeli army’s raid on the Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli military said an interim investigation could not determine who fired the fatal bullet, noting that stray Palestinian fire or Israeli sniper fire aimed at militants were both possible causes.
But the Palestinian prosecutor’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah said later that the initial results of an investigation showed that “the only origin of the shooting was the Israeli occupation forces.”
Al Jazeera has said that Israel killed her “deliberately” and “in cold blood”.
In a rare unanimous statement, the UN Security Council condemned the killing and called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation,” according to diplomats.
– ‘Deeply disturbed’ –
Abu Akleh, a Christian and Palestinian-American, was a star reporter and her funeral drew massive crowds.
As his body left St. Joseph’s Hospital in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli police charged mourners who had raised Palestinian flags.
Police said some “300 rioters” had arrived at the hospital for the procession and “prevented family members from loading the coffin into the hearse to travel to the cemetery as planned and coordinated with the family beforehand”.
The police then intervened “to disperse the mob and prevent the coffin from being carried away, so that the funeral could proceed as planned”. Glass bottles and other objects were thrown at police, he added in a statement.
The United States was “deeply concerned to see the images of Israeli police intervening in his funeral procession today,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“Every family deserves to be able to put their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unhindered way.”
The EU said it was “appalled by the violence in the St Joseph’s Hospital complex and the level of unnecessary force exerted by the Israeli police during the funeral procession”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was also “deeply disturbed” by the violence, according to a spokesman.
Thousands of Palestinian mourners tried to follow the coffin to the cemetery outside the walled Old City.
Police briefly tried to avoid them but eventually relented, allowing thousands of people to make their way to the grave and failed to intervene when Palestinian flags were waved, AFP reporters said.
– ‘Sister of all Palestinians’ –
In a sign of Shireen Abu Akleh’s prominence, he was given what was described as a full state memorial service on May 12 at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s compound in Ramallah before his body was transferred to Jerusalem.
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have backed calls for a full investigation into Abu Akleh’s murder.
Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation, which the Palestinian Authority has rejected.
Grief over the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh spread beyond the Palestinian territories, with protests erupting in Turkey, Sudan and elsewhere.
She “was the sister of all Palestinians,” her brother Antoun Abu Akleh told AFP.
– New violence –
New violence broke out in the West Bank on Friday, including a raid and clashes around the Jenin refugee camp in which an Israeli commando was killed.
The Islamic Jihad group said its fighters were responsible.
The Israeli officer killed was identified as Noam Raz, a 47-year-old father of six. Police said he was injured “during a shootout with armed terrorists” and later died.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were injured in the clashes, one of them seriously.
An AFP photographer said Israeli forces surrounded a suspect’s house, besieged two men inside and fired anti-tank grenades at the house in an effort to drive them out.
Tensions were already rising after a wave of anti-Israeli attacks that have killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.
A total of 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs have been killed during the same period, according to an AFP tally, including perpetrators of attacks and killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)