Israeli police beat mourners at funeral of slain Palestinian journalist


JERUSALEM:

Israeli police officers charged at Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, before thousands led her casket through Jerusalem’s Old City in an outpouring of grief and anger over her killing.

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, 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.

The violent scenes, which lasted only minutes, added to Palestinian outrage over Abu Akleh’s killing, which has threatened to fuel violence that has surged since March.

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 occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Palestinian authorities have described Abu Akleh’s killing as an assassination by Israeli forces. 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.

Also read: Al Jazeera reporter killed by Israeli army gunfire in West Bank

Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, had begun throwing stones at officers. “The policemen were forced to act,” they added.

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.

Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow alleyways of the Old City as the coffin was carried to the Mount Zion Cemetery nearby.

Her grave was covered in wreaths and the Palestinian flag draped over the grave cross as mourners surrounded it solemnly, paying tribute to Abu Akleh.

“We’re here because we are screaming for justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said one mourner, who did not want to be identified by name.

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