Jerusalem – journalist’s funeral overshadowed by violence

The memorial service for the killed Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem was overshadowed by violent scenes. Israeli security forces stormed the funeral procession early on Friday, and the coffin almost fell to the ground. The EU and the USA sharply criticized the police operation. Bloody clashes broke out again in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, killing one Israeli soldier and injuring 13 Palestinians.

Shireen Abu Akleh, 51, was one of the best-known journalists at the Qatar-based Arabic broadcaster Al Jazeera. The Palestinian, who also has US citizenship, was shot in the head on Wednesday while reporting on an Israeli military operation in Jenin in the north of the West Bank.

Israel and the Palestinians blamed each other for the journalist’s death. Israel later admitted that Abu Akleh could also have been killed by an Israeli shot.

According to an interim report on the investigation published by the Israeli army, “it is not possible to determine the origin of the shot.” Abu Akleh died either from Palestinian scattered fire or from an Israeli sniper targeting Palestinian militants. Israel is demanding a joint investigation and the release of the deadly bullet for a forensic examination. The Palestinian Authority rejects this.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian Christian, was held in high esteem by the population. Her funeral in her native city of Jerusalem drew thousands of people. As her coffin was being carried out of a hospital in the Israeli-annexed eastern part of the city, Israeli police rushed to confiscate Palestinian flags. The State of Israel prohibits the public display of Palestinian flags.

Footage from Palestine TV showed the coffin nearly falling to the ground as police dispersed the crowd and grabbed the flags. Police said they were forced to intervene when “violent rioters tried to disrupt the funeral.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed shock. “The EU condemns the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behavior of the Israeli police towards the participants in the funeral procession.” Enabling a peaceful farewell and allowing the mourners to mourn in peace without bullying and humiliating them is the minimum of human respect.

US President Joe Biden’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, spoke of “deeply disturbing” images. The US had “warned respect for the funeral procession, the mourners and the family at this sensitive time”.

The UN expressed dismay at the alleged violence by Israeli security forces. “We just saw the video of it and it’s just really shocking to us,” spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York on Friday. “Of course, as in all cases, we want to ensure that the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and of course the right to peaceful freedom of demonstration are protected and upheld,” Haq said.

The body of Abu Akleh was then taken in a vehicle to the Old City of Jerusalem and, after a short funeral service in a church, was taken to Mount Zion Cemetery. Thousands of Palestinians tried to follow the coffin to the cemetery outside the city walls.

The police did not intervene when Palestinian flags were waved again during the funeral procession, AFP reporters reported. A tense calm reigned in the Old City of Jerusalem after the burial.

New violent clashes broke out during another Israeli military operation in the West Bank on Friday. An Israeli soldier was injured in a raid near the Jenin refugee camp and later died, police said. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 13 Palestinians were injured, one seriously.

Meanwhile, 15 European countries – not including Austria – have called on Israel to “reverse” its decision to build nearly 4,500 housing units for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. These are “another obstacle to a two-state solution” and “clearly represent a violation of international law,” they said

According to the Israeli non-governmental organization Peace Now, the planning committee of the Israeli Civil Administration of the Palestinian Territories had previously given the green light for the construction of 2,791 housing units. He issued a provisional permit for 1,636 more residential units. (apa/afp/dpa)

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