Israel Police to Investigate Conduct at Journalist’s Funeral
JERUSALEM — Israeli police decided on Saturday to investigate the conduct of their officers who attacked the funeral of a slain Al Jazeera journalist, causing mourners to briefly drop the casket during the ceremony in Jerusalem.
At Friday’s funeral procession, police beat pallbearers using batons. Witnesses claim that Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed Wednesday by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military says Palestinian gunmen were in the area and it’s not clear who fired the fatal bullet.
The funeral scene and death of the 51 year-old Palestinian-American journalist drew international condemnation.
The Israeli police stated Saturday that their commissioner had ordered an investigation to be completed in the next few days. “The Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident,” the statement said.
The police say they used force as hundreds of “rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police.”
Abu Akleh was a respected journalist who is well-known in the Arab world. The terrorist attack at the funeral intensified the sense of outrage and grief that followed his death. They also illustrated the deep sensitivities over east Jerusalem — which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.
Before the burial began, large numbers of mourners gathered to transport her casket from the east Jerusalem hospital to the Catholic Church in the Old City. Many of the mourners held Palestinian flags, and the crowd began shouting: “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.”
Soon afterward, Israel police arrived and began pushing mourners. The riot police, wearing helmets, approached pallbearers and struck them. One man lost control of his casket, which was falling towards the ground as they came closer. Police ripped Palestinian flags out of people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. administration was “troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession” of Abu Akleh, who was also an American citizen. “Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner,” he tweeted.
A unanimous condemnation came Friday from the U.N. Security Council, which called in a rare statement for “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into her killing.”
The preliminary findings of the Palestinian Public Prosecutor showed that Abu Akleh died from deliberate firing by Israeli soldiers late Friday. Prosecutor stated that the investigation will be continued. Israel’s military said earlier Friday that she was killed during an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants, and that it couldn’t determine the source of the shot that killed her.
Israel demanded a joint investigation by the Palestinian Authority and asked it to turn over the bullet to forensic analysis in order to identify who shot the fatal round. However, the PA refused to cooperate with Israel and said it would conduct its own investigation. The results will be sent to the International Criminal Court which has already begun investigating potential Israeli war crimes.
Al Jazeera and the PA, who have a long-standing relationship with Israel that is fraught, accuse Israel of intentionally killing Abu Akleh. Israel denied the claims.
Abu Akleh was part of the small Palestinian Christian congregation in the Holy Land. In a display of unity, Palestinian Christians and Muslims joined hands Friday.
She was hit in the head during an Israeli military raid on Jenin, West Bank.
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