Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Friday, but not before her funeral procession was interrupted by Israeli police who beat onlookers and pallbearers, forcing them to drop one end of the coffin.
The confrontation took place outside the hospital where mourners, many waving Palestinian flags, picked up Abu Akleh’s coffin. They intended to march on foot to a church in the nearby Old City, as Abu Akleh was a Christian, but were assaulted by Israeli forces.
Video shows the pallbearers violently pushed to one side of the street, struggling to maintain control of the coffin as officers beat and kicked those in the crowd.
Abu Akleh, 51, was shot in the head on Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank. A colleague who was injured and the Al Jazeera network identified Israeli forces as having fired the fatal shot.
After the clash outside the hospital, Abu Akleh’s family was allowed to transfer the coffin to a vehicle and drive it to a Catholic church in the Old City, the Associated Press reported. . Police fired tear gas at those who remained.
Even the hearse was not unscathed. The video showed Israeli officers tearing Palestinian flags from the vehicle carrying Abu Akleh’s body.
Israel Police said in a statement to The New York Times that they took “coercive action” after witnessing “nationalist incitement” during the motorcade.
The violence has appalled some members of the international community. The Dutch ambassador to Israel said he was “shocked by the disproportionate and disrespectful behavior of the Israeli police”.
At various points in the procession, mourners sang the Palestinian national anthem and chanted such things as “Palestine, Palestine”, “we die so that Palestine may live” and “our beloved home”, according to the ‘AP.
Abu Akleh was a Palestinian and American citizen who had covered life in the disputed lands for decades, becoming a well-known Palestinian journalist. Thousands of people showed up for his funeral in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Israel claims the entire city as its capital, although much of the world does not recognize it as such due to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city. Earlier this year, Amnesty International joined human rights groups accusing Israel of perpetuating a system of apartheid against Palestinians both within Israel’s borders and in disputed territories, including the West Bank. .
On the day Abu Akleh died, she was wearing protective gear identifying her as a member of the press. Other reporters at the scene told AP that the reporters reported their presence to Israeli soldiers. They said they had not seen any Palestinian militants and that there had been no clashes in the immediate area where Abu Akleh had been hit, contradicting Israeli military claims that Palestinian fighters fired hundreds of shots, some in his direction.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called Abu Akleh’s death “an affront to media freedom everywhere” and said the investigation must hold responsible parties accountable.
The reaction contrasted with the furious American denunciation of Russia in response to journalists killed in the Ukrainian war; unlike Russia, Israel is considered an American ally.