The Israeli police on Friday assaulted mourners at Al Jaeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral with batons, causing pallbearers to briefly drop the casket.
The police crackdown came as thousands of mourners attended the funeral of the Palestinian-American journalist, who was shot dead in West Bank while covering an Israeli military operation in the area. She was allegedly shot by Israeli soldiers without provocation. She was wearing a helmet and bullet-proof vest with PRESS clearly written on it.
Some mourners at the funeral hoisted Palestinian flags and chanted “Palestine, Palestine”. The crowd said, “We die for Palestine to live. Our beloved home."
They also sang the Palestinian national anthem.
Al Jazeera shared footage of the assualt on Twitter. In a separate tweet, the channel said Israeli forces tore a Palestinian flag.
"The Israeli army is asking people if they are Christian or Muslim. If you’re Muslim you weren’t allowed in." - @ajimran— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) May 13, 2022
Israeli occupation forces are attacking Palestinians during the funeral of killed Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. pic.twitter.com/Xq3VkeOCqn
The Palestinian gathering at the funeral is seen as a rare show of Palestinian nationalism in east Jerusalem — the part of the holy city that Israel captured in 1967 and that the Palestinians claim as their capital. Israel says east Jerusalem is part of its capital and has annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognised. Israel routinely clamps down on any displays of support for Palestinian statehood.
Ahead of the service, dozens of mourners tried to march with the casket 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 police.
“The policemen were forced to act,” police said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military said its initial investigation into 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.
Israel announced that an Israeli policeman was killed in new fighting in Jenin on Friday.
Recent days have seen an outpouring of grief from across the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world.
Abu Akleh was a widely respected on-air correspondent who spent a quarter 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 casket 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, she 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 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, the military said Palestinian gunmen recklessly fired hundreds of rounds at an Israeli military vehicle, some in the direction of where Abu Akleh was standing. It said Israeli forces returned fire, and that without doing ballistic analysis it cannot determine who was responsible for her 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 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 Wednesday. All of them were wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as reporters.
Either side is likely to cast doubt on any conclusions reached by the other, and there did not appear to be any possibility of a third party carrying out an independent probe.
The PA and Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh within hours of her death. 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 Abu Akleh was a well-known figure and also an American citizen.
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 wounded in the fighting, including one who was shot in the stomach.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem — including the Old City and its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims — in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want both territories as part of their future state. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally and views the entire city as its capital.
Police went to Abu Akleh's family home in Jerusalem the day she was killed and have shown up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags.
The Abu Akleh's killing has come at a time when Israeli-Palestinian tensions were already high. A number of Palestinian attacks inside Israel have killed at least 18 Israelis in last two months. A total of 27 Palestinians have also been killed, including those who carried out attacks inside Israel. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem has also witnessed clashes over last month. Over 150 people were injured on April 15.
(With AP inputs)