Israeli police attack mourners ahead of funeral of Palestinian-American journalist

JERUSALEM — Prominent Palestinian-American broadcaster Shireen Abu Akleh, while alive, was one of the major chroniclers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Her death on Wednesday while covering an Israeli airstrike on the occupied West Bank has made her one of the most prominent recent victims of the conflict. Palestinian witnesses and officials said Abu Akleh, 51, longtime Al Jazeera’s main television reporter, had been shot by Israeli soldiers.

Then, on Friday, her funeral in Jerusalem was ruined by another incident of violence. And, like her death, it was characterized by an opposing narrative.

In the early afternoon on Friday afternoon, as thousands of people gathered in East Jerusalem for one of the largest Palestinian funerals in recent memory, a phalanx of Israeli riot police attacked a group of mourners carrying a coffin containing the body of Abu Akleh. So it almost fell off. that.

Israeli police later revealed that police intervened because mourners who wanted to move the coffin on foot to the funeral, according to an agreement reached with Abu Akleh’s family, refused to put it in a hearse.

But police intervention has caused shock and condemnation in Israel and elsewhere as attacks on mourners, regardless of motive, are considered harsh.

It was the most recent and perhaps the most startling salvo of the most violent period of years aside from all-out war in Israel and the occupied territories.

The assault took place outside a hospital in East Jerusalem where Abu Akleh’s body was placed after another memorial service on Thursday, and hundreds gathered to witness the start of her funeral procession.

Tensions between the Palestinian and Israeli police have escalated after Palestinians waving Palestinian flags and shouting nationalist slogans. According to senior diplomat Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, who witnessed the conflict, the problem was exacerbated when the police refused to allow mourners to carry them to church.

This has sparked a standoff between mourners who do not allow the hearse to access the hospital and police who refuse to leave with the coffin, Kühn von Burgsdorff said.

At the White House, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the video of the crash was “very disturbing” and “we regret to hear that the peaceful march was interrupted.”

Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation, Esawi Frej, tweeted that police had “blasphemed” the memory and funeral of Abu Akleh and caused “an unnecessary explosion.” He added, “The police had no respect for the mourners and had no understanding of their role as an organization that maintains order rather than violating order.”

As the standoff escalated, the European Union’s ambassador to Palestine, Kühn von Burgsdorff, tried to mediate between the police and the mourners, he said. Realizing it was impossible to convince the police to change their mind, Abu Akleh’s brother Anton also asked the mourners to put coffins in hearse, Kühn von Burgsdorff added.

However, neither side backed down when the mourners held the coffin and waved the Palestinian flag against police demands. East Jerusalem is inhabited mostly by Palestinians, and most of the world sees it as an occupied territory.

A video was released that warned the crowd not to shout slogans but failed, and the police rushed at the mourners after throwing three plastic bottles towards the police.

The officers swung their batons. They kicked and beaten coffin bearers and pushed them back. They knocked over a man who had joined the coffin-carrying gang and kicked him as he lay on the floor.

When they were hit, the coffin carrier was unable to control one end of the coffin for a while, and the coffin suddenly fell to the ground. Mourners threw projectiles, including what appeared to be sticks, and officers threw what appeared to stun them and threw grenades.

The event, intended as a moment of catharsis, was rather chaotic. For many Palestinians, Abu Akleh’s death increased the humiliation and suffering embodied.

Abu Akleh was shot and killed early Wednesday morning during an airstrike on Jenin, north of the Northwest Bank, which Israel has recently become the focus of and home to several perpetrators of its latest deadly attack on Israelis. counter-terrorism campaign.

In a report released Friday night, the Palestinian Authority’s prosecutor concluded that Abu Akle had been deliberately shot by Israeli forces. Prosecutors said they released their findings based on an autopsy that she was shot in the head, bullet marks on a tree next to where she was killed, and interviews with eyewitnesses, including another Al Jazeera journalist who was shot in the back.

The Israeli military released preliminary findings into her death just hours ago, concluding that it was “impossible to establish unequivocally the source of the shooting that hit Abu Akleh and killed her.”

However, for the first time, the Israeli army used the report to create a scenario in which Israeli forces may have attacked Mr. Abu Akleh.

The Israeli military said it may have to evaluate the bullet that killed Abu Acle in order to draw a more definitive conclusion. The Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank area where the strike took place, has the bullets and has rejected Israel’s request to evaluate the bullets at an Israeli laboratory under joint US and Palestinian oversight.

Friday’s showdown ended an unusually tense and tumultuous two-month period in which 19 Israelis and foreigners were killed in five Arab attacks in Israel. More than 30 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, mostly in Israeli counterattacks. convulsions of violence in Jerusalem’s holiest place; Gaza launches a new rocket; And it is the first overlap between Ramadan, Passover and Easter in one generation.

Abu Akleh has been a reporter for more than 20 years as a journalist in the midst of the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, which convulsed Israel and occupied territories from 2000 to 2005.

She originally studied to become an architect, but in a short reel shared by Al Jazeera shortly after her murder on Wednesday, she said that she ultimately chose journalism “to get closer to people.” “It won’t be easy to change reality, but at least they have been able to give their voice to the world,” she said.

In an interview with An-Najah NBC, a Palestinian television channel in 2017, she was asked if she had ever been afraid of being shot.

“We do not come to death,” she said. “We try to figure out where we can stand and how to protect the team with me before we think about how I’m going to get on the screen or what I’m going to say.”

After the attack on the mourners, her coffin was eventually loaded into a hearse and taken to the entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City. Thousands of Palestinians flocked to the alleyway leading to the Cathedral of the Annunciation, where her funeral was held.

Her coffin was carried there on foot.

Ben Hubbard Reported from Beirut, Lebanon Khiva Yazbek Nazareth, Israel, Iyad Abuheweilah from Gaza.

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