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May 13, 2022 4:01 pm
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Israeli Police Clash With Palestinians at Journalist’s Funeral

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Family and friends carry the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli security forces stand guard, during her funeral in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Israeli police clashed with Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh at the start of her funeral procession on Friday, before thousands led her casket through Jerusalem’s Old City.

Packed around Abu Akleh’s coffin, dozens of Palestinians, some waving Palestinian flags and chanting, “With our soul and blood we will redeem you Shireen,” began walking toward the gates of St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Israeli police officers — in an apparent bid to stop them proceeding by foot rather than taking the coffin by car, as had been designated in advance by police and the Abu Akleh family — burst through the courtyard gates and charged at the crowd, some beating pallbearers with batons and kicking them.

At one point the group carrying her coffin backed against a wall and almost dropped the casket, recovering it just before one end hit the ground as stun grenades detonated.

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A few minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle that headed toward the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in Jerusalem’s Walled Old City, where the funeral ceremony proceeded peacefully.

Israeli police said in a statement that “both before and at the beginning of the funeral procession, riots broke out in the hospital plaza,” with rioters throwing stones and other objects at the officers.

“The stones and objects were hurled at officers from rioters who were near the coffin at the hospital,” police said in a statement. “These rioters damaged the funeral procession vehicle, even trying to prevent it from driving once the coffin was inside. Israel Police forces operated to prevent the funeral disruption and continuation as planned. Unfortunately, there are those who choose to cynically use the death of the journalist with ill intent.”

The White House found images of the scene disturbing, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, and US officials will remain in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the aftermath of Akleh’s funeral.

Abu Akleh, who had covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades, was shot while reporting on an Israeli raid in the West Bank on Wednesday.

Israel’s government initially suggested Palestinian fire might have been to blame, but officials have also said they could not rule out it was Israeli gunfire that killed her, as the investigation is ongoing. Palestinian authorities described Abu Akleh’s killing as an assassination by Israeli forces, and have rejected Israeli efforts to conduct a joint probe to determine culpability.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said events in Jerusalem and Jenin could push the sides into serious escalation.

INVESTIGATIONS AND RAIDS

The Israeli military said on Friday that its initial investigation “concluded that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”

The inquiry has raised two possibilities, the military said in a statement. The first, that Abu Akleh was hit by Palestinian militants who fired dozens of bullets toward Israeli military vehicles, “which is also the direction where Ms. Abu Akleh was.”

The second, that an Israeli soldier returning fire from a jeep toward a gunman had inadvertently hit her. The vehicle was around 200 meters from Abu Akleh, the military said.

Israeli forces on Friday resumed raids on the outskirts of Jenin, where Abu Akleh was killed.

IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen engaged in gunfire, seriously wounding an Israeli counter-terrorism officer, who later succumbed to his wounds.

The Jenin Brigade, a wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, said its fighters were engaging in armed clashes with Israeli forces in Jenin. At least 13 were wounded, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Israel has stepped up raids amid a string of deadly terror attacks by Israeli Arab and Palestinian assailants, including several hailing from Jenin, that have killed 19 people.

This article has been updated.

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