The US and EU led an international riot today after Israeli police charged the funeral procession in Jerusalem of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and beat carriers that nearly dropped her coffin.
Thousands of people packed Jerusalem’s Old City yesterday for the funeral of veteran Al Jazeera journalist, two days after she was killed in an Israeli army attack in the occupied West Bank.
Television footage showed the portable carriers struggling to stop Shireen Abu Akleh’s coffin from falling to the ground as baton-wielding police officers stormed at them and grabbed Palestinian flags of mourners.
The United States said it was “deeply upset” by the scenes, while the European Union said it was “upset” by the “unnecessary force”.
The Jerusalem Red Crescent said 33 people were injured, six of whom were hospitalized. Israeli authorities say six arrests were made after mourners threw “stones and glass bottles”.
Israel and the Palestinians exchanged blame for the death of Abu Akleh on May 11 who was shot in the head during the Israeli army attack on the Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli military said an interim investigation could not determine who fired the fatal bullet, noting that stray Palestinian gunfire or militant-directed Israeli sniper fire were both possible causes.
But the Palestinian prosecutor’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah later said the initial results of an investigation showed “the only origin of the shooting was the Israeli occupying forces”.
Al Jazeera said Israel killed her “intentionally” and “in cold blood.”
In a rare, unanimous statement, the UN Security Council condemned the killings and called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation”, according to diplomats.
– ‘Deeply upset’ –
Abu Akleh, a Christian and a Palestinian-American, was a star reporter and her funeral drew large crowds.
As her body left St Joseph’s Hospital in the Israeli annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli police charged with mourners hoisting Palestinian flags.
Police said about “300 rioters” arrived at the hospital for the march and “prevented the family members from loading the coffin on the hearse to travel to the cemetery as planned and coordinated with the family”.
The police then intervened “to disperse the crowd and prevent them from taking the coffin, so that the funeral could go as planned”. Glass bottles and other objects were thrown at police, it added in a statement.
The United States was “deeply upset to see the images of Israeli police raiding her funeral procession today,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“Every family deserves to be able to rest their loved ones in a dignified and unhindered way.”
The EU said it was “appalled by the violence in the St Joseph’s Hospital complex and the level of unnecessary violence perpetrated by Israeli police during the funeral procession.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was also “deeply upset” by the violence, according to a spokesman.
Thousands of Palestinian mourners tried to follow the coffin to the cemetery just outside the walled Old City.
Police have tried to prevent them for a short time, but eventually conceded and allowed thousands to flock to the grave, and did not intervene when Palestinian flags were swung, AFP reporters said.
– ‘Sister of all Palestinians’ –
In a sign of Shireen Abu Akleh’s prominence, she was given what was described as a full state memorial service on May 12 at Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’ complex in Ramallah before her body was transferred to Jerusalem.
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have backed calls for a full investigation into Abu Akleh’s assassination.
Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation, which has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority.
Sadness over Shireen Abu Akleh’s assassination erupted outside the Palestinian territories, with protests erupting in Turkey, Sudan and elsewhere.
She “was the sister of all Palestinians,” her brother Antoun Abu Akleh told AFP.
– Fresh violence –
Fresh violence erupted in the West Bank on Friday, including a raid and clashes around Jenin refugee camp in which an Israeli commando was killed.
The Islamic Jihad group said its fighters were responsible.
The Israeli officer who was killed has been identified as Noam Raz, a 47-year-old father of six. Police said he was wounded “during a shootout with armed terrorists,” and later died.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 13 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, one of them seriously.
An AFP photographer said Israeli forces surrounded the house of a suspect, besieged two men inside siege and fired anti-tank grenades at the house in an attempt to flush them out.
Tensions were already high after a spate of anti-Israel attacks that killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab-Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.
A total of 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs died in the same period, according to an AFP report, including perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in West Bank operations.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by techlives staff and is being published from a syndicated stream.)