Israeli police, public clash at funeral for slain journalist; EU 'dismayed'
Saturday, 14 May 2022 (12:44 IST)
Clashes broke out between mourners and Israeli police Friday as thousands of Palestinians gathered for the funeral and burial of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. It's unclear who is responsible for the shot that killed her.
The violence occurred before a Catholic funeral service was held for Abu Akleh in Jerusalem's Old City and her body taken to a nearby cemetery for burial.
The Jerusalem Red Crescent reported that 33 people had been injured during the procession, with six individuals requiring hospitalization.
Speaking from near the cemetery after the burial, DW correspondent Tania Krämer said, "there is still a lot of police presence here, the streets are mainly closed off around the area."
Funeral marred by clashes
The clashes erupted as pallbearers and mourners gathered in front of the hospital ahead of the funeral service.
When they refused to put away Palestinian flags — often confiscated by authorities — and refrain from singing the Palestinian national anthem, police dressed in riot gear moved in to disperse them.
Al Jazeera video footage from outside the hospital showed Abu Akleh's casket falling briefly to the ground before being lifted again.
"The Israeli army is asking people if they are Christian or Muslim. If you’re Muslim you weren’t allowed in." - @ajimran
Israeli occupation forces are attacking Palestinians during the funeral of killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. pic.twitter.com/Xq3VkeOCqn
Police said protesters had been warned to stop chanting "nationalist incitements" and that they had been "forced to act." Police also said they were reacting to being pelted with rocks.
In a statement released on Twitter, they also reported six suspects were arrested "for violating public order and attacking police officers before and at the beginning of the funeral procession."
Authorities eventually allowed the journalist's family to drive the casket to the church before sealing off the hospital and teargassing those protesters who remained at the site.
EU ambassador 'dismayed,' US calls images 'deeply disturbing'
The EU's ambassador to Israel, Dimiter Tzantchev, wrote on Twitter that he was "dismayed" by the "disproportionate and disrespectful use of force" by Israeli police on mourners carrying Abu Akleh's coffin. "Maintaining order can be done by other means," he said.
UN Spokesman Farhan Haq called images "very shocking," adding, "Obviously, we'll try to gather more information about exactly what's happened here."
Haq also emphasized the importance of ensuring the basic human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of peaceful demonstration.
Giving her final briefing to reporters on Friday, outgoing White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: "We have all seen those images, they're obviously deeply disturbing. We regret the intrusion of what should have been a peaceful procession."
PA refuses to cooperate with Israel, says it will go to ICC
Both Al Jazeera and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have blamed Israel for the journalist's death, saying soldiers shot her deliberately.
Israel has voiced its desire to conduct a joint investigation into the incident alongside the PA, saying the only way to determine who killed Abu Akleh would be to conduct a forensic examination of the projectile.
The PA has refused the request, saying it will conduct its own investigation and signaling its intention to take the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Israel's military says it has conducted a preliminary investigation into the incident, nevertheless, but said its results remain inconclusive.
Israel claims Palestinian militants were firing heavy artillery at Israeli soldiers near the spot from which Abu Akleh was reporting and says it is unclear whether she was fatally hit by those militants or Israeli soldiers returning fire.
Other reporters who were with Abu Akleh when she was shot say there were no firefights in the area. All of the journalists present, one of whom was also shot and wounded, were wearing clearly marked protective gear identifying them as press.
UN Security Council unanimously condemns killing
On Friday evening, the United Nations Security Council said it "strongly condemned" the killing of Abu Akleh.
In a statement, the UN body called for "an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into her killing."
The Security Council said that it was monitoring the situation closely while emphasizing the "need to ensure accountability."
The statement said that "journalists should be protected as civilians."
It did not mention Friday's violence during the funeral for the slain journalist.
Respected journalist covered Israel-Palestine conflict for half her life
A respected member of the local press corps, Shireen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old TV journalist, began work at Qatar-based Al Jazeera in 1997 and attained renown for her coverage of the so-called Second Intifada against Israeli rule in the early 2000s.
Tensions have been high in and around Jenin in recent weeks with militants carrying out a number of deadly attacks in Israel. These have triggered near-daily raids and arrests by Israeli authorities, some of which have in turn led to firefights.
Israeli forces entered the city again on Friday morning, with heavy gunfire and explosions reported. The Palestinian Health Minister reported that 11
Palestinians had been hospitalized with injuries.
The Israeli military says it came under fire when it sought to arrest militants, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later said that an Israeli soldier was killed in the operation.