Pallbearers drop journalist’s coffin as Israeli police hit mourners with batons

Thousands of mourners, some hoisting Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine, Palestine”, attended the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh.

Pallbearers drop journalist’s coffin as Israeli police hit mourners with batons

Israeli police moved in on a crowd of mourners at the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh – beating demonstrators with batons and causing pallbearers to drop her coffin.

The crackdown came during a rare show of Palestinian nationalism in east Jerusalem — the part of the holy city Israel captured in 1967 and Palestinians claim as their capital.

Israel says east Jerusalem is part of its capital and has annexed the area in a move not internationally recognised.

Thousands of mourners, some hoisting Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine, Palestine”, attended the funeral of Ms Abu Akleh, who witnesses say was shot and killed by Israeli forces earlier this week while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank.

“We die for Palestine to live,” the crowd chanted. “Our beloved home.” Later, they sang the Palestinian national anthem.

Ahead of Friday’s service, dozens of mourners tried to march with the coffin on foot out of a hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City.

Police said the crowd at the hospital was chanting “nationalist incitement”, ignored calls to stop and threw stones at officers.

“The policemen were forced to act,” the force said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said its initial investigation into Ms Abu Akleh’s death showed that a heavy firefight was underway in the West Bank town of Jenin around 200 metres from where she was killed, but that it was unable to determine whether she was shot by Israeli forces or Palestinian militants.

Mourners hold a banner depicting slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as they walk from the Old City of Jerusalem to her burial site
Mourners hold a banner depicting slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as they walk from the Old City of Jerusalem to her burial site (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Recent days have seen an outpouring of grief from across the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world.

Ms Abu Akleh was a widely respected on-air correspondent who spent quarter of a century covering the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule, which is well into its sixth decade with no end in sight.

After the heated scene outside the hospital, police allowed the family to drive the coffin to a Catholic church in the Old City, which was packed with mourners, before sealing off the hospital and firing tear gas at scores of protesters.

After the service, thousands headed to the cemetery, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine, Palestine”.

Several hours later, Ms Abu Akleh was buried in a cemetery outside the Old City.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera had earlier said that its managing director, Ahmad Alyafei, would travel to Jerusalem to attend the funeral.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round.

The PA 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.

In a statement issued on Friday, Israeli military said Palestinian gunmen recklessly fired hundreds of rounds at an Israeli armed force vehicle, including some in the direction of where Ms Abu Akleh was standing.

It said its forces returned fire, and that without doing ballistic analysis it cannot determine who was responsible for Ms Abu Akleh’s death.

“The conclusion of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to determine the source of the fire that hit and killed the reporter,” the military said.

Reporters who were with Ms Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said there were no clashes or militants in the immediate area when she was killed early on Wednesday.

All of them were wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as reporters.

Israeli police detain a man during the funeral
Israeli police detain a man during the funeral (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Within hours of her death, the PA and Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Ms Abu Akleh.

Israel says a full investigation is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.

Rights groups say Israel rarely follows through on investigations into the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and hands down lenient punishments on the rare occasions when it does.

This case, however, is drawing heavy scrutiny because Ms Abu Akleh was well-known and an American citizen.

The 51-year-old joined Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language service in 1997 and rose to prominence covering the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising against Israeli rule, in the early 2000s.

She was shot in the head while covering an Israeli arrest raid in Jenin.

Israeli police confront mourners
Israeli police confront mourners (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Israeli troops pushed into Jenin again early on Friday.

An Associated Press photographer heard heavy gunfire and explosions and said Israeli troops had surrounded a home.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were hospitalised after being hurt in the fighting, including one who was shot in the stomach.

The Israeli military tweeted that Palestinians opened fire when its forces went in to arrest suspected militants.

Police said a 47-year-old member of a special Israeli commando unit was killed.

Mourners carry slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral procession in the Old City of Jerusalem
Mourners carry slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral procession in the Old City of Jerusalem (Mahmoud Illean/AP)

The Palestinians want both territories as part of their future state.

Israel views the entire city as its capital.

Police went to Ms Abu Akleh’s family home in Jerusalem on the day she was killed and have shown up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags.

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