TThousands of people paid their last respects on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem to Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in Jenin on Wednesday. Clashes broke out between participants and Israeli security forces during the funeral procession from East Jerusalem’s St. Joseph Catholic Hospital to the Greek Catholic Melkite Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Jerusalem’s Old City and then to Mount Zion Cemetery.
According to eyewitnesses, Israeli security forces used stun grenades and batons against the gathered crowd and journalists outside the hospital. The police prevented the crowd from carrying the coffin on foot to the funeral service in the Melkite Cathedral and only released the train after the coffin had been loaded into a hearse. The police justified their intervention with “nationalist incitement” by some mourners and violence against officials.
Police confiscate Palestinian flags
In the old town, Israeli police officers also tried to block the road to the cathedral and prevent Muslims from entering. Scuffles broke out when police confiscated Palestinian flags. Raising the Palestinian flag is not a criminal offense in Israel, according to a September 2021 ruling by the Jerusalem District Court.
According to the Haaretz newspaper, the police arrested six Palestinians during the funeral procession. At least ten people required medical treatment.
In addition to representatives of the various churches and Muslim representatives, diplomats from various countries and Arab-Israeli politicians also took part in the celebration. Helicopters circled overhead. The Israeli security forces were deployed in large numbers.
Old town churches ring the bells
The crowd chanted slogans such as “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greater”), “Sheen our martyr”, “All together for Shireen, Muslims and Christians” during the procession from the church to the nearby cemetery. Many attendees carried photos of the slain Palestinian-American Christian and stickers that read “press.” The bells of the various churches in the old town rang for the burial in the Greek Orthodox cemetery.
Abu Akleh, 51, was fatally shot on Wednesday while reporting on an Israeli army raid on the Palestinian city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Another journalist was shot and wounded.
Background of death still unclear
How the fatal incident came about is still unclear. According to local media, eyewitnesses reported that the journalist was hit by a bullet in the head and immediately collapsed. There was no prior warning to the journalists.
An interim report by the Israeli army on Friday said it remains impossible to determine whether the fatal bullet was fired by Israeli snipers or Palestinian militants.
Israel had demanded a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the release of the bullet for forensic analysis. The PA rejected both demands and said it would conduct its own investigation and take the case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Several diplomatic officials and organizations, including US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and the Foreign Press Association FPA, have called for an independent and transparent investigation.
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