Violence erupts at Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral in Jerusalem as Israeli forces clash with Palestinian mourners

There were disturbing scenes in the heart of the Middle East on Friday as thousands of Palestinians poured into Jerusalem to pay their last respects to Shireen Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera journalist, who was killed two days earlier while covering an army raid in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Al Jazeera said Israel warned Abu Akleh’s brother to limit the size of the funeral procession, and told him that no Palestinian flags should be unfurled and no slogans chanted. The network said it dismissed the warning, which would have been difficult to heed given the outpouring of grief and anger over the journalist’s murder.

Video clips aired on Al Jazeera – which accused Israeli troops of deliberately opening fire on Abu Akleh – showed Israeli riot police pushing and shoving mourners outside a Jerusalem hospital and firing tear gas as people tried to carry his coffin outside the hospital morgue on Friday.

At one point, his coffin appeared to almost fall to the ground in the middle of the melee. Projectiles could be seen flying through the air as Palestinians chanted anti-Israel slogans.

shireen-abu-akleh-funeral-clash.jpg
A still from a video shows mourners struggling to hold aloft the coffin containing the body of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh amid clashes with Israeli security forces outside a hospital from Jerusalem on May 13, 2022.

Reuters


Israel had tightened security in Jerusalem ahead of the funeral, as Palestinian officials continued to back Al Jazeera’s allegation that Abu Akleh was assassinated by Israeli forces. The Palestinian Authority has refused to cooperate with Israel in the investigation of his death, despite calls from Israel and the United States to do so.

The 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist was apparently shot in the head while covering clashes in the sprawling Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, despite wearing protective gear that identified her clearly as a member of the press.

While the Israeli leader initially claimed it was ‘likely’ she was hit by gunfire from Palestinian gunmen firing uncontrollably, the country’s military chief accepted the next day that it could have been a shot from an Israeli soldier.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Wednesday evening that it could have been “the Palestinians who fired at him”, or fired from “our side” – appearing to backtrack on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks the day before about the Palestinian fire “likely” to be to blame.


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“We don’t know for sure how she was killed, but we want to shed some light on this incident and find out the truth as much as possible,” Gantz said Wednesday.

Abu Akleh’s body was transferred to Jerusalem from the West Bank for Friday’s funeral. The funeral procession began at the East Jerusalem hospital, with final respects then to be paid at a church in the Old City before his body was laid to rest alongside his parents in a nearby cemetery.

But the violence began as soon as Abu Akleh’s coffin was taken from the gates of the hospital, where Israeli security forces had gathered. The video showed them rushing towards the funeral procession before grabbing and roughing up some of the mourners.

Eventually the chaos died down and the procession headed towards the church. His coffin was carried, followed by a large crowd, to the cemetery, and there were no signs of any further trouble along the way.

Funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in an Israeli raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, in Jerusalem
Family and friends carry the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in an Israeli raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, as clashes erupted with Israeli security forces, during his funeral in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022.

AMMARAWAD/REUTERS


The Israeli army said on Friday that an initial investigation showed there was an intense exchange of fire between security forces and Palestinians about 200 meters from where Abu Akleh was killed on Wednesday , but she was unable to determine which side had fired the fatal shot.

In a statement, the army repeated the Israeli government’s claim that Palestinian gunmen fired recklessly, including at an Israeli military vehicle near where the journalist was hit.

The army said that without a ballistic analysis of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, it could not determine who shot the journalist. The Palestinian authorities did not allow Israeli officials access to the bullet that killed the Al Jazeera journalist.

CBS News’ Khaled Wassef contributed to this report.

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