Israeli police baton charge mourners at Palestinian journalist’s funeral

Police attack those waving Palestinian flags and arrest six described as ‘rioters’

There were violent scenes at the funeral of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh in Jerusalem. Israeli troops appeared to wade in to the cortege causing pall-bearers to drop the casket holding the remains of the Al-Jazeera reporter shot on the West Bank.

 

Israeli police officers on Friday charged at Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh killed this week in the West Bank.

Clashes broke out during the funeral in east Jerusalem of the veteran reporter who was shot dead on Wednesday in the city of Jenin.

Police and mourners scuffled as Abu Aqleh’s coffin was carried aloft from a hospital in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood at the start of her funeral, almost causing the coffin to fall. Police attacked mourners waving Palestinian flags with batons and arrested six people they described as “rioters”.

After the clashes the procession proceeded peacefully as a large crowd of well-wishers joined the procession towards the old city and then the Mount Zion Protestant cemetery where Abu Aqleh was buried alongside her parents.

Abu Aqleh, a 51-year-old Palestinian-American, was a household name across much of the Arabic-speaking world. She was hit by a bullet to the head even though she was wearing a flak jacket bearing the word PRESS and a helmet. The Qatari-based network blamed Israel. Palestinian authorities have described Abu Akleh’s killing as an assassination by Israeli forces.

Sniper fire

The Israeli military on Friday released interim findings from its investigation into the incident, concluding that there were two possible scenarios: one involving indiscriminate Palestinian gunfire and the other a case of possible errant Israeli sniper fire.

In the first scenario Abu Aqleh was hit when armed Palestinians fired “dozens of bullets indiscriminately” toward military vehicles taking part in the raid in the direction where the journalist was standing.

The second possibility is that of a soldier who the military said used a gun with a telescopic sight to fire back at a gunman through a slit in the armoured vehicle he was travelling in. Abu Aqleh was standing about 200m from the vehicle at the time, according to the military.

The army stressed that a professional ballistics test was needed but the Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to let Israel examine the bullet fired or take part in the inquiry alongside an American representative.

At a state ceremony to pay respect for the journalist at the Muqataa PA headquarters in Ramallah on Thursday, president Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of murder and rejected any co-operation with the Israeli investigation despite pressure from Washington to do so.

“How can the truth be hidden?” he asked. “We reject co-operation with the Israeli investigation. We do not trust them.”

He also vowed to take the case to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Further clashes

As Friday’s funeral took place there were further clashes in the Jenin area during a raid by Israeli troops to detain a Palestinian militant. An Israeli officer from the elite Yamam anti-terror unit was killed and 11 Palestinians were wounded during intense exchanges of fire.

Earlier on Friday a soldier shot and wounded a Palestinian who had thrown a brick at a passing Israeli vehicle near the West Bank settlement of Beit El near Ramallah.

According to the Israeli military, the assailant, who was moderately wounded, was carrying a knife and a bottle of acid. – Additional reporting: Reuters