JERUSALEM: Israeli police officers on Friday beat mourners, friends and family members carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, before a sea of thousands led her casket through Jerusalem’s old quarter in an outpouring of grief and anger over her killing.
Packed around Abu Akleh’s coffin, Palestinians, some waving the nation’s 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, 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 against a wall and almost dropped the casket, recovering it just before one end hit the ground as stun grenades detonated.
The Israeli action met widespread condemnation from the international community. The EU said it was “appalled” by the “unnecessary force” used by Israeli police.
“EU and likeminded partners attended the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh in occupied east Jerusalem. Appalled by the violence in the St Joseph Hospital compound and the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession,” the EU said in a tweet.
The White House described as “deeply disturbing” footage from Abu Akleh’s Jerusalem funeral.
Deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking” and US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was “deeply distressed by the images”.
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.
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 has said they could not rule out the possibility that it was Israeli gunfire that killed her.
Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, had begun throwing stones at officers. “The policemen were forced to act,” they added.
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, where the funeral ceremony proceeded peacefully.
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.
“Were here because we are screaming for justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said one mourner.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said events in Jerusalem and Jenin could push the sides into serious escalation.
The Palestinians have rejected the Israeli request and have called for an international investigation.
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2022