Pallbearers nearly drop journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s coffin as Israeli police hit mourners

Israeli police officers have charged at Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, amid ongoing historical tensions between the two groups and anger and grief over the broadcaster’s death.

Key points:

Israeli police said Palestinian rioters sparked the violence by throwing stones at the officersUN spokesperson Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking” and the EU said it was appalledIsrael is seeking a joint investigation with Palestinian officials into the journalist’s death

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

Palestinian authorities have described Abu Akleh’s killing as an assassination by Israeli forces.

Israel’s government initially suggested Palestinian fire might have been to blame, but officials have also said they could not rule out it was Israeli gunfire that killed her.

Packed around Abu Akleh’s coffin on Friday, 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 bid to stop them proceeding by foot rather than taking the coffin by car, burst through the courtyard gates and charged at the crowd, some beating pallbearers with batons and kicking them.

At one point the group carrying her coffin backed up against a wall and almost dropped the coffin, recovering it just before one end hit the ground as stun grenades detonated.

Shireen Abu Akleh began working for Al Jazeera in 1997 and reported from across the Palestinian territories. (Supplied: Al Jazeera)

The violent scenes, which lasted only minutes, added to Palestinian outrage over Abu Akleh’s killing, which has threatened to fuel violence that has surged since March.

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

“The policemen were forced to act,” they added.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the Biden administration found the images disturbing, and US officials would remain in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the aftermath of Akleh’s funeral.

Egypt, Qatar and Al Jazeera condemned the police’s conduct. Deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking” and the EU said it was appalled.

Thousands attend funeral procession along street carrying a coffin. Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow alleyways of the Old City in Jerusalem.(Reuters: Ammar Awad)

Thousands gather in mourning

A few minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle that headed toward the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in Jerusalem’s Walled Old City. 

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

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

Israeli security forces back people holding up a coffin against a wall. Israeli police say the violence was started by a group of Palestinians throwing stones at the officers.(Reutes: Ammar Awad)

Investigation into journalist’s death continues

Family and friends mourn around a coffin inside a packed church. Family and friends stand in a packed church beside the coffin of  Shireen Abu Akleh.(Reuters: Ammar Awad)

The Israeli military said on Friday that its initial investigation concluded it was “not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms Abu Akleh”.

She may have been killed by shots fired by Palestinian militants shooting at Israeli military vehicles or been hit inadvertently by an Israeli soldier returning fire, it said.

The Palestinian Attorney-General’s office issued a statement on Friday in which it said initial investigations had found that the sole source of gunfire in the area where Ms Abu Akleh was hurt was Israeli.

Thousands walk along funeral procession, with Palestinian flag flying overhead. Abu Akleh’s death has drawn widespread condemnation.(Reuters: Ronen Zvulun)

Journalist’s colleagues say they were targeted by snipers

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said events in Jerusalem and Jenin could push the sides into serious escalation.

Abu Akleh’s death has drawn widespread condemnation. Video footage from the moments after she 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 come under Israeli sniper fire and that they were not close to militants.

Israel, which has voiced regret at 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.

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Posted 7h ago7 hours agoSat 14 May 2022 at 12:22am, updated 2h ago2 hours agoSat 14 May 2022 at 5:25am

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Krzysztof Stanowicz

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