May 13, 2022 - World

Israeli police beat Palestinian mourners at Shireen Abu Akleh funeral

Israeli police beat mourners carrying Shireen Abu Akleh's casket outside a hospital in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images
Israeli police beat mourners carrying Shireen Abu Akleh's casket outside a hospital in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli police beat mourners carrying the casket of Shireen Abu Akleh during the start of the Palestinian American journalist's funeral procession on Friday.

The big picture: The death of the veteran Al Jazeera journalist, who was shot dead Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East and across the rest of the world.

  • Palestinians, journalists who witnessed Abu Akleh's death and Al Jazeera say she was killed by Israeli gunfire.
  • The Israeli military earlier Friday released preliminary findings of its investigation into the journalist's death, saying it's impossible to know from whose fire Abu Akleh was killed without a ballistic examination of the piece of the bullet that was removed from her body.
  • The military said it had offered to do a joint ballistic examination of the bullet with the Palestinians and U.S. experts, but Palestinian officials refused the proposal.

What happened: Video aired by Al Jazeera on Friday shows Israeli police shoving and beating mourners, including those carrying Abu Akleh's coffin, with batons as they attempted to leave a hospital in East Jerusalem. They also used stun grenades.

  • "We're all still shocked when we saw the Israeli [police] moving into the courtyard of the hospital, beating mourners. Her coffin almost fell to the ground," Al Jazeera English's Stefanie Dekker said from the cemetery where Abu Akleh was laid to rest.
  • A ceremony was later held at a Catholic church in Jerusalem's Old City before Abu Akleh's body was taken to a cemetery outside the Old City and laid to rest as thousands gathered to mourn her.

Behind the scenes: There is anger and frustration among Biden administration officials over the events of the funeral, two U.S. and Israeli sources told Axios.

  • U.S. officials conveyed a protest to the Israeli government about the actions of the Israeli police during the funeral procession.
  • President Biden told reporters later Friday that he doesn't know "all the details" about Abu Akleh's death, but it "has to be investigated.” It was the first time he publicly addressed the Palestinian American's killing.

The latest: Israel's chief of police ordered an investigation into the "operational incident," a spokesperson announced Saturday. The statement claimed "hundreds of rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police" and that "force was subsequently used by the police."

  • "The Israel Police supporters its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident," the spokesperson said.

After the incident on Friday, the police spokesperson had claimed the police intervened at the start of the procession to disperse a "mob and prevent them from taking the coffin, so that the funeral could proceed as planned in accordance with the wishes of the family."

  • The spokesperson said that police had coordinated plans for the funeral procession in advance with Abu Akleh's family. According to police, the coffin was supposed to be loaded into a hearse.
  • Esawi Frej, the Israeli minister for regional cooperation, criticized the police and said they acted in a disgraceful way.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information from the Israeli police, U.S. and Israeli officials.

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