The United States and the European Union led an international outcry today after Israeli police accused the funeral procession of Palestinian journalist Shirin Abu Akleh in Jerusalem and beat her coffin-bearers who nearly threw her coffin.
Thousands of people gathered in the Old City of Jerusalem, yesterday, to bury the veteran Al Jazeera journalist, two days after she was martyred in an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank.
Television footage showed coffin holders struggling to prevent Shirin Abu Akle’s coffin from falling to the ground as police officers carrying batons approached them and took Palestinian flags from mourners.
The United States said it was “deeply disturbed” by the scenes, while the European Union said it was “dismayed” by “unnecessary force”.
The Red Crescent in Jerusalem said 33 people were wounded, including six who were taken to hospital. Israeli authorities said six arrests were made after mourners threw “stones and glass bottles”.
Israel and the Palestinians traded blame for the killing of Abu Uqla on May 11, when he was shot in the head during an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp.
The Israeli army said that the interim investigation was unable to determine who fired the fatal bullet, indicating that stray Palestinian shooting or Israeli sniper fire targeting activists are two possible causes.
But the Palestinian Public Prosecutor’s Office in the West Bank city of Ramallah later said that the preliminary results of the investigation showed that “the only source of fire is the Israeli occupation forces.”
Al Jazeera said Israel killed her “intentionally” and “in cold blood”.
In a rare unanimous statement, the UN Security Council condemned the killing and called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation,” according to diplomats.
– ‘Extremely disturbed’ –
Abu Akleh, a Christian and American of Palestinian descent, was a stellar reporter and her funeral drew large crowds.
When her body left St. Joseph Hospital in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli police accused mourners who raised Palestinian flags.
Police said about 300 rioters arrived at the hospital for the procession and “prevented family members from loading the coffin onto the body to travel to the cemetery as planned and coordinated with the family in advance.”
The police then intervened “to disperse the mob and prevent them from taking the coffin until the funeral takes place as planned.” It added in a statement that bottles and other items were thrown at the police.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the United States was “deeply disturbed to see images of Israeli police interfering with its funeral procession today.”
“Every family deserves to be able to comfort their loved ones in a dignified and unimpeded manner.”
The European Union said it was “horrified by the violence in the St. Joseph hospital complex and the level of unnecessary force applied by the Israeli police throughout the funeral procession”.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by the violence.
Thousands of Palestinian mourners tried to trace the sarcophagus toward the cemetery outside the walled Old City.
Police briefly tried to stop them but eventually backed down, allowing thousands to stream toward the grave, and did not intervene when Palestinian flags were waved, according to AFP reporters.
– Sister of all Palestinians –
In a nod to Shireen Abu Akle’s fame, she received what was described as a full official memorial service on May 12 at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ compound in Ramallah before her body was moved to Jerusalem.
The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have backed calls for a full investigation into Abu Okla’s killing.
Israel publicly called for a joint investigation, which the Palestinian Authority rejected.
The grief of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death has spread beyond the Palestinian territories, with protests erupting in Turkey, Sudan and elsewhere.
“She was the sister of all the Palestinians,” her brother, Anton Abu Akleh, told AFP.
– New violence –
Fresh violence erupted Friday in the West Bank, including a raid and clashes around the Jenin refugee camp in which an Israeli special forces member was killed.
The Islamic Jihad group said its fighters were responsible.
The slain Israeli officer was named Noam Raz, 47, a father of six. Police said he was wounded “during an exchange of fire with armed terrorists” and later died.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that 13 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, one of them in a serious condition.
An AFP photographer told AFP that Israeli forces surrounded the house of one of the suspects, trapped two men inside and fired anti-tank grenades at the house in an attempt to expel them.
Tensions have already risen after a wave of attacks against Israel has killed at least 18 people since March 22, including an Arab Israeli police officer and two Ukrainians.
And 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs were killed during the same period, according to an AFP count, including the perpetrators of the attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in operations in the West Bank.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by the NDTV crew and is published from a syndicated feed.)