Veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Ab Akleh was laid down in Jerusalem on Friday. However, her funeral procession was disrupted by Israeli police. They beat pallbearers and onlookers and forced them to drop one end of their coffin. The confrontation took place in front of the hospital, where mourners waving Palestinian flags picked up Abu Akleh’s casket. The Israeli forces attacked them as they tried to take Abu Akleh’s casket to a nearby church.
Video shows the pallbearers being violently shoved to one side of the street, struggling to maintain control of the casket 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, which cradles the city of Jerusalem. Both a colleague who was injured and the Al Jazeera network identified Israeli forces as firing the fatal shot.
After the fighting outside the hospital, Abu Akleh and his family were allowed to transport the casket in a car to a Catholic church in Old City. The police used tear gas against those who refused to leave.
Even the hearse was not spared. Video shows Israeli officers taking Palestinian flags from Abu Akleh’s vehicle.
Israeli police confirmed in a statement to The New York Times that they took “enforcement action” after witnessing “nationalist incitement” during the procession.
Mourners sang the Palestinian national anthem at various points during the procession. They also chanted “Palestine,” “We die to Palestine to live,” and “our beloved homeland,” according to the AP.
Abu Akleh’s brother acknowledged that the scene outside the hospital was “distressing” in an interview with the BBC World Service after her funeral.
” While it was sad, it also showed how Shireen was loved and respected in the media, especially in Palestine,” Tony Abu Akleh stated. He told the BBC that it was a large funeral for Shireen.
Israeli officials warned family members against carrying Palestinian flags and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans.
The violence shocked the international community as well. Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary-of-State, stated that his office was “deeply disturbed” by the images from Jerusalem.
” Every family should be able to lay their loved ones to sleep in a dignified, unimpeded manner,” Blinken tweeted.
The European Union’s spokesperson said the entire bloc was “appalled” by the scenes and “disrespectful behavior” by Israeli police.
We were deeply troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh. Each family has the right to ensure that their loved ones are laid to rest in a dignified, unimpeded way.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 13, 2022
Abu Akleh was a Palestinian and U.S. citizen who had covered life in the disputed lands for decades, becoming a well-respected source on the topic. Her funeral was attended by thousands of people in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital. However, much of the world doesn’t recognize it as such because of ongoing conflict with Palestinians who claim the eastern portion of the city. Earlier this year, Amnesty International joined the human rights groups accusing Israel of perpetuating an apartheid system against Palestinians both within Israel’s borders and in disputed territories, including the West Bank.
She was wearing protective gear that identified her as a member the press on the day of Abu Akleh’s death. Other reporters on the scene reported to the AP that the Israeli soldiers had been made aware of the presence of the journalists. They said they did not see any Palestinian militants, and there were no clashes in the immediate area where Abu Akleh was hit, contradicting claims from the Israeli military that Palestinian fighters had fired hundreds of rounds, some in her direction.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price called Abu Akleh’s death “an affront to media freedom everywhere” and said the investigation must hold responsible parties accountable.
That reaction contrasted with the furious U.S. denunciation of Russia in response to journalists killed in the Ukraine war; unlike Russia, Israel is considered an American ally.