JERUSALEM, May 13 (Reuters) – Israeli police charged Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, before thousands drove her coffin through Jerusalem’s Old City in a wave of grief and anger after his murder.
Huddled 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 marching towards the gates of St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Israeli police, in an apparent attempt to stop them walking rather than drive the coffin, burst through the courtyard gates and charged into the crowd, some hitting the bearers with batons and beating them of foot.
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At one point, the group carrying his coffin leaned against a wall and nearly dropped the coffin, retrieving it just before one end hit the ground when stun grenades exploded.
The violent scenes, which lasted just minutes, added to Palestinian outrage over the killing of Abu Akleh, which threatens to fuel violence that has escalated since March.
Abu Akleh, who had covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades, was shot dead on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. Read more
The Palestinian authorities have described Abu Akleh’s murder as an assassination by Israeli forces. The Israeli government initially suggested that Palestinian fire may have been to blame, but officials also said they could not rule out that Israeli fire killed her.
Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, began throwing stones at the officers.
“The police were forced to act,” they added.
The White House found the footage disturbing, press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters, and U.S. officials will remain in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian authorities after Akleh’s funeral.
“Every family deserves to be able to rest their loved ones with dignity and without hindrance,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Egypt, Qatar and Al Jazeera condemned the police conduct. UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking” and the EU said it was appalled.
Minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle heading for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where the funeral ceremony took place. proceeded peacefully.
Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow lanes of the Old City as the coffin was carried to the nearby Mount Zion cemetery.
His grave was covered with wreaths and the Palestinian flag draped over the grave cross as mourners solemnly surrounded him, paying their respects to Abu Akleh.
“We are here because we demand justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said a mourner, who did not want to be identified by name.
INVESTIGATIONS AND RAIDS
The Israeli army said on Friday that its initial investigation “concluded that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the shots that hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”
She may have been killed by gunfire from Palestinian militants firing at Israeli military vehicles or was inadvertently hit by an Israeli soldier who fired back, he added.
The Palestinian attorney general’s office released a statement on Friday in which it said initial investigations had revealed that the only source of fire in the area where Abu Akleh was injured was Israeli.
In a statement approved by consensus on Friday, the 15 members of the UN Security Council strongly condemned the killing and called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent, fair and impartial investigation”.
Israeli forces resumed raids on the outskirts of Jenin on Friday, where Abu Akleh was killed, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were injured.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility for the death of an Israeli policeman during an exchange of gunfire in Jenin.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said events in Jerusalem and Jenin could push the sides into serious escalation.
Abu Akleh’s death was widely condemned. Video footage moments after she was shot shows Abu Akleh, 51, wearing a blue vest marked “Press”.
At least two of her colleagues who were with her said they had come under Israeli sniper fire and were not close to the militants.
Israel, which expressed regret for Abu Akleh’s death, offered a joint investigation with the Palestinians, asking them to provide the bullet for examination.
The Palestinians rejected the Israeli request and called for an international investigation.
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Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Rami Amichay in Jerusalem; Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Andrew Mills in Doha, Michelle Nichols in New York, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason in Washington and Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Jon Boyle, Alistair Bell and Himani Sarkar
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