by joseph cross
JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) — Israeli police joined a crowd of mourners at the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akleh on Friday, thrashing demonstrators with sticks and briefly toppling the coffin.
The action took place during a rare display of Palestinian nationalism in East Jerusalem – part of the holy city that Israel captured in 1967 and claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.
Israel says East Jerusalem is part of its capital and has annexed the region in a move that is not recognized internationally. Israel regularly shuts down on any display of support for the Palestinian state.
Thousands of mourners, some waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine, Palestine”, attended the funeral of Abu Akleh, which witnesses say was a funeral pyre in the West Bank occupied by Israeli forces earlier this week. He was shot and killed while covering a military raid.
“We die to live for Palestine,” the crowd chanted. “Our lovely home.” Later, he sang the Palestinian national anthem.
Before the service, dozens of mourners tried to march with coffins on foot from a hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby old town.
Police said the crowd at the hospital was raising slogans of “nationalist provocation”, ignored calls to stop and pelted stones at the police. “The policemen were forced to act,” the police said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military said that its preliminary investigation into the death of Abu Aqleh showed that there was heavy shelling about 200 meters (yards) in the West Bank city of Jenin, but was unable to determine if he was killed. was shot or not. by the Israeli military or Palestinian militants.
Israel announced that an Israeli policeman was killed in a new fighting in Jenin on Friday.
There has been a wave of mourning in the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world in recent days. Abu Akleh was a widely respected on-air correspondent who spent a quarter century covering the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule, which is not well into his sixth decade of sight.
After a heated scene outside the hospital, police allowed the family to carry the coffin to the old city’s Catholic church, which was filled with mourners, before closing down the hospital and firing tear gas at scores of demonstrators. .
After the service, thousands of people headed to the cemetery, waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine, Palestine”.
Several hours later, he was buried in a cemetery outside the Old City.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera previously said that its managing director, Ahmed Alayafi, would travel to Jerusalem to attend the funeral.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullets for forensic analysis to determine who triggered the deadly round. The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.
The military said in a statement Friday that Palestinian gunmen recklessly fired hundreds of rounds of shots at an Israeli military vehicle, some in the direction of where Abu Akleh stood. It said Israeli forces retaliated and without a ballistic analysis it could not be determined who was responsible for his death.
“The conclusion of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to trace the source of the fire that struck and killed the reporter,” the military said.
The reporter who was with Abu Akleh, one of whom was shot and wounded, said there was no conflict or militants in the immediate area when he was killed in the early hours of Wednesday. They were all wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as journalists.
Both parties are likely to cast doubt on any conclusions made by the other party, and there is no possibility of an independent investigation by a third party.
The PA and Al Jazeera accused Israel of intentionally killing Abu Akle within hours of his death. Israel says a thorough investigation is needed before any conclusions can be reached.
Rights groups say Israel rarely investigates the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and on rare occasions offers liberal punishments. However, the matter is under heavy scrutiny as Abu Akle was a well-known figure and also a US citizen.
Abu Akle, 51, joined Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language service in 1997 and rose to prominence in the early 2000s while covering the Second Palestinian Intifada, or insurgency against the Israeli regime.
He was shot in the head while covering an Israeli arrest raid in Jenin early Wednesday. Palestinians in and around Jenin have carried out a series of deadly attacks inside Israel in recent weeks, and Israel has launched daily arrest raids in the region, often igniting gun battles with militants.
Israeli troops again infiltrated Jenin early on Friday. An Associated Press photographer heard heavy gunfire and explosions and said Israeli troops had surrounded a house.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were hospitalized after being wounded in the fighting, including one with a bullet injury in the stomach. The Israeli military tweeted that Palestinians opened fire as its forces went to arrest suspected terrorists. Police said a 47-year-old member of a special Israeli commando unit was killed.
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war—including the Old City and sacred sites for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The Palestinians want both regions as part of their future state. Israel did not recognize East Jerusalem internationally and viewed the entire city as its capital.
Police went to Abu Aqle’s family home in Jerusalem the day he was killed and appeared at other mourning events in the city to remove the Palestinian flag.
Associated Press reporters Majdi Mohamed in Janin, West Bank, Joseph Federman in Jerusalem and Aya Batrawi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.