Israeli police beat mourners at funeral of slain Palestinian journalist

Israeli police beat mourners at funeral of slain Palestinian journalist

JERUSALEM, May 13 (Reuters) – Israeli police officers on Friday attacked Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, before thousands carried her coffin through Jerusalem’s Old City in an outburst of grief and anger at her assassination .

Packed 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 toward the gates of St. Joseph’s Hospital.

In an apparent attempt to prevent them from proceeding on foot instead of taking the coffin by car, Israeli police officers burst through the courtyard gates and charged the crowd, some hitting pallbearers with batons and kicking them.

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At one point, the group carrying their coffin leaned against a wall and almost dropped the coffin, only to retrieve it just before one end hit the ground as flashbang grenades exploded.

The violent scenes, which lasted only a few minutes, fueled Palestinian outrage over the killing of Abu Akleh, which threatened to fuel escalating violence since March.

Abu Akleh, who had covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades, was shot dead while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. Continue reading

The Palestinian authorities have described the killing of Abu Akleh as an assassination attempt by Israeli forces. The Israeli government initially suspected Palestinian fire may have been to blame, but officials also said they couldn’t rule out that it was Israeli gunfire that killed them.

Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, began throwing stones at officers.

“The police officers were forced into action,” they added.

The White House found the images disturbing, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, and US officials will remain in close contact with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities after Akleh’s funeral.

“Every family deserves to be able to bury their loved ones with dignity and freedom,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Egypt, Qatar and Al Jazeera condemned the behavior of the police. UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking” and the EU was appalled.

Minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle bound for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem’s walled old city, where the funeral service was peaceful.

Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow streets of the Old City as the coffin was carried to nearby Mount Zion Cemetery.

Her grave was covered with wreaths and the Palestinian flag draped over the cross as mourners solemnly surrounded it and paid tribute to Abu Akleh.

“We are here because we cry out for justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said one mourner, who asked not to be named.

INVESTIGATIONS AND RAIDS

The Israeli military said on Friday that its initial investigation “concluded that it is not possible to positively determine the source of the shots 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 returning fire, sources said.

The Palestinian Attorney General’s office issued a statement on Friday, saying initial investigations found the only source of gunfire in the area where Abu Akleh was injured was Israel.

In a mutually agreed statement 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 raids on the outskirts of Jenin, where Abu Akleh was killed, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were wounded.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, meanwhile, 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 push the sides into a serious escalation.

The death of Abu Akleh was widely condemned. Video footage from the moments after she was shot showed Abu Akleh, 51, in a blue vest with the words “Press” written on it.

At least two of her colleagues who were with her said they came under Israeli sniper fire and had no contact with militants.

Israel, deploring the death of Abu Akleh, 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.

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Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Rami Amichay in Jerusalem; Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Andrew Mills in Doha, Michelle Nichols in New York, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason in Washington, and Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; Edited by Andrew Heavens, Jon Boyle, Alistair Bell and Himani Sarkar

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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