Israel Police to investigate conduct at journalist funeral – NECN
Israeli police decided on Saturday to investigate the conduct of their officers who attacked the funeral of a slain Al Jazeera journalist, causing mourners to briefly lower the coffin during the ceremony in Jerusalem.
Police forces beat up pallbearers at the start of a funeral procession on Friday for Shirin Abu Akleh, who witnesses say were killed by Israeli soldiers during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. The Israeli military says Palestinian gunmen were in the area and it is not clear who fired the fatal shots.
The shocking scenes at the funeral, and the death of the 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist, drew worldwide condemnation and calls for an investigation, including by the United States and the United Nations.
In a statement on Saturday, Israeli police said their commissioner had directed an investigation that would conclude in the coming days. “Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also take lessons from this incident,” the statement said.
Police say they used force as hundreds of “rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police.”
The attack on the funeral added to the sense of mourning and outrage that has followed the death of Abu Aqleh, a veteran journalist and a household name across the Arab world. He also portrayed a deep sensitivity to East Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and Palestine and has repeatedly provoked violence.
Before the burial, a large crowd gathered to carry his coffin from a hospital in East Jerusalem to a Catholic church in the nearby old city. Many of the mourners carried Palestinian flags, and the crowd began to shout: “We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, Shirin.”
Shortly after, the Israel Police went inside, pushing and clubbing the mourners. As riot police approached, they hit the pallbearers, causing one man to lose control of the coffin and fall to the ground. Police tore Palestinian flags from people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US administration was disturbed by images of Israeli police infiltrating the funeral procession of Abu Akleh, who was also a US citizen. “Every family deserves to rest their loved ones in a dignified and uninterrupted manner,” he tweeted.
The United Nations Security Council on Friday issued a unanimous condemnation that called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into his assassination” in a rare statement.
Late on Friday, the Palestinian Public Prosecutor said preliminary findings suggested Abu Akleh had been killed in a deliberate firing by Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue. Israel’s military said earlier on Friday that he was killed during a shootout with Palestinian militants, and it could not determine the source of the shot that killed him.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority, and urged it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who triggered the deadly 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.
The PA and Al Jazeera, which has long had strained relations with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh. Israel has denied the allegations.
Abu Akle was a member of the small Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians and Muslims marched alongside each other on Friday in a show of unity.
He was shot in the head during an Israeli military raid Wednesday morning in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Hamilton, Ontario contributed.
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