Mourners carrying coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh through East Jerusalem were stripped of Palestinian flags Israeli security forces
Israeli forces beat a crowd of mourners bearing the casket of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday as tensions soared during her funeral procession in East Jerusalem.
Live footage from Al Jazeera showed Israeli security forces hitting the crowd with batons as they tried to carry the casket out of a hospital and towards a church in the Old City for the funeral. At one point the casket nearly fell to the ground amid the chaos.
Ms Abu Akleh, a respected Palestinian correspondent for Al Jazeera, was well known across the Middle East. She died after she was shot in the head while covering an Israeli army raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Several of her colleagues at Al Jazeera who witnessed the shooting say it was carried out by Israeli soldiers, while Israel has speculated that Ms Abu Akleh was shot by Palestinian militants who were firing on its troops. An investigation is ongoing.
Ms Abu Akleh’s body had been kept in the morgue overnight at St Joseph’s Hospital, following a memorial service on Thursday at the presidential palace in Ramallah.
Israel had reportedly prohibited the casket from being carried along the 45-minute route to the church in Jerusalem.
After several minutes of scuffles, crowds were pushed back by Israeli troops to allow the casket to be placed inside a hearse. Mourners covered the car in petals, and Palestinian flags, which were promptly ripped down by Israeli soldiers.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian politcian, said that “savage Israeli ‘special forces’ viciously attack the funeral procession bearing the coffin” in a post on Twitter.
“The inhumanity [of] Israel is on full display,” the former official from the Palestine Liberation Organisation added.
On Thursday evening, Israeli police had summoned Ms Abu Akleh’s brother Anton, the only surviving family member, to the police station to warn that no Palestinian flags, chants or walking processions were allowed during the funeral proceedings.
On the day of her death, police entered her family home in east Jerusalem and ordered Palestinian national music to be turned off and flags removed, in an attempt to stamp out shows of Palestinian unity.
In response to the hospital incident, Israeli police accused mourners of “taking cynical advantage” of the funeral and causing disruption.
“As the coffin was about to exit the hospital, stones began to be thrown at officers from the hospital’s plaza, and the officers were forced to use riot dispersal means,” a police statement said.
Hundreds of mourners packed into the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin, a Melkite Greek Catholic church, where an hour-long service was held in the afternoon.
Video footage showed family, friends, colleagues and clergy men gathered around Abu Akleh’s casket at the front of the ancient church in the Old City. Many were filming proceedings on mobiles and waving flags, with others visibly upset.
In an unusual move displaying the magnitude of her death, all church bells rang out across Jerusalem to honour Abu Akleh, as her coffin was taken to the cemetery.
Ms Abu Akleh was well-known to Arabs across the Middle East, as she was a regular fixture on their TV screens as an Al Jazeera reporter over the past two decades.
The funeral comes as the interim findings of an Israeli army investigation could not determine who fired the bullet that killed Ms Abu Akleh.
“The conclusion from the interim report is that it’s not possible to determine the source of the gunfire that hit and killed the reporter”, the Israeli army said in a statement.
“The investigation shows two possibilities for the source of the shot that killed her,” the report said.
The first could have been “massive fire of Palestinian gunmen (at Israeli soldiers), as part of which hundreds of bullets were shot from a number of locations.”
“The other option is that during the gunfight, one of the soldiers shot a few bullets from a jeep using a telescopic scope at a terrorist who was firing at his vehicle,” it added.
Israel and the Palestinians have traded blame over the fatal shooting, with Israel calling for a joint probe and stressing the need for Palestinian authorities to hand over the fatal bullet for forensic examination.
The Palestinian Authority has rejected holding a joint probe with Israel, saying Israel was “completely responsible” for her death