Shireen Abu Akleh: Israeli police to investigate conduct at Al Jazeera journalist’s funeral

Israeli police decided on Saturday to investigate the conduct of their officers who attacked the funeral of a slain Al Jazeera journalist, prompting mourners to briefly throw the coffin during the ceremony in Jerusalem.

Police forces beat pallbearers with batons at the start of Friday’s funeral procession for Shireen Abu Akleh, who witnesses said was killed by Israeli troops on Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army says there were armed Palestinians in the area and it is unclear who fired the fatal bullet.

The shocking scenes at the funeral and death of the 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist drew worldwide condemnation and calls for investigations, including from the United States and the United Nations.

In a statement Saturday, Israeli police said his commissioner ordered an investigation to conclude in the coming days, adding that the organization “would draw lessons from the incident.”

Police say they used force when hundreds of “rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police.”

The attack on the funeral added to a sense of grief and outrage that followed the death of Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist and a household name throughout the Arab world. They also illustrated deep sensitivities about East Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.

Before the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort his coffin from an East Jerusalem hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many of the mourners were holding Palestinian flags and the crowd began to shout: “We sacrificed our soul and our blood for you, Shireen.”

Shortly after, the Israel police entered, pushing and beating the mourners. As helmeted riot police approached, they pummeled the pallbearers, causing one man to lose control of the coffin as he fell to the ground. Police ripped Palestinian flags from people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US administration was “concerned by images of Israeli police interrupting the funeral procession” of Abu Akleh, who was also a US citizen. “Every family deserves that their loved ones rest in a dignified and unhindered way,” he tweeted.

On Friday there was unanimous condemnation from the UN Security Council, which called in a rare statement for “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into his murder.”

On Friday night, the Palestinian prosecutor said preliminary results show Abu Akleh was killed by deliberate fire from Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue. Israel’s military said on Friday that she was killed during an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants and that it was unable to determine the source of the shot that killed her.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and urged it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round. The Palestinian Authority has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.

The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera, which has long had a strained relationship with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh. Israel denies the accusations.

Abu Akleh was a member of the small Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians and Muslims marched together on Friday in a show of unity.

He was shot in the head on Wednesday morning during an Israeli military raid on the West Bank city of Jenin.

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