by Joseph Federman
JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) – Israeli riot police pushed and thrashed the coffin at the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Aqleh on Friday, forcing them to briefly topple the coffin in a shocking start that may have been Palestinian nationalism. became its biggest performance. In one generation in Jerusalem.
The scenes of violence were likely to add to a sense of grief and outrage across the Arab world following the death of Abu Akleh, who witnesses say was killed by Israeli soldiers during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. were. He also portrayed a deep sensitivity to East Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and Palestine and has repeatedly provoked violence.
Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name across the Arab world, synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under Israeli rule, who is not well into his sixth decade of sight. A 25-year veteran of satellite channels, she was revered by Palestinians as a local hero.
Thousands of people, many waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” attended the funeral. It was believed that it was the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem, since Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader and descendant of a prominent family, died in 2001.
Before the burial, a large crowd gathered to carry his coffin from a hospital in East Jerusalem to a Catholic church in the nearby old city. Many of the mourners held up Palestinian flags, and the crowd began to shout, “We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, Shirin.”
Shortly after, the Israel Police went inside, pushing and clubbing the mourners. As riot police approached, they hit the pallbearer, causing one man to lose control of the coffin and fall to the ground. Police tore Palestinian flags from people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Abu Akleh’s brother, Tony, said that the scenes “prove that Shirin’s report and honest words … had a powerful effect.”
Al Jazeera correspondent Giwara Buderi said the police action was like killing Abu Akleh again. “It doesn’t seem like her voice is silent,” she said during a report from the broadcaster.
East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War. It claims the entire city as its eternal capital and annexed the eastern region in a move that is not recognized internationally.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state. Israel regularly shuts down on any display of support for the Palestinian state. Conflicting claims over East Jerusalem often escalate into violence, helping fuel an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants last year and more recently weeks of unrest at the city’s most sensitive holy site.
Outside of prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel rarely allows large Palestinian gatherings in East Jerusalem and regularly closes in on any display of support for the Palestinian state.
Police said the crowd at the hospital, raising slogans of “nationalist provocation”, ignored calls to stop and pelted stones at them. “The policemen were forced to act,” the police said. They released a video in which a commander outside the hospital warned the crowd that the police would arrive if they did not stop their excitement and “nationalist songs”.
An Israeli official said details of the funeral had been coordinated with the family ahead of time to ensure it went smoothly, but that “crowds began to gather around the body of Shirin Abu Akleh and chaos broke out.” “The procession was stopped from going along with it. desired route. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as per rules.
Earlier this week, Abu Akleh’s brother said the original arrangement was to carry the coffin from the hospital to the church, and after the service, it would be carried through the streets to the cemetery. It was not immediately clear why those plans were changed and pallbearers came out of the hospital carrying the coffin.
Al Jazeera said in a statement that the police action “violates all international norms and rights.”
“Israeli occupation forces attacked mourners mourning the late Shirin Abu Akhleh after storming a French hospital in Jerusalem, where they brutally beat up pallbearers,” the statement said. The network said it is committed to covering the news and it will not be avoided.
The Israeli police later placed the coffin in a black van and removed the Palestinian flag from the vehicle on its way to the church.
“We die to live for Palestine!” The crowd shouted. “Our lovely home!”
Afterwards, he sang the Palestinian national anthem and chanted “Palestine, Palestine!” Chanted. His body was buried in a cemetery outside the old town.
His grave was decorated with a Palestinian flag and flowers. Palestinian Ambassador to Britain Hussam Zomalot and Al Jazeera’s bureau chief Walid al-Omari lay flowers at the tomb.
Palestinian Salah Zuheka, 70, called Abu Akleh “the daughter of Jerusalem” and said the huge crowd was a “reward” for her love of the city.
“We have already remembered him, but what happened in the city today will not be forgotten,” he said.
Abu Akle was a member of the small Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians and Muslims marched alongside each other on Friday in a show of unity.
He was shot in the head during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. But the circumstances of the shooting remain in dispute.
Palestinians say he died in military firing, while Israeli forces said on Friday that he was killed in a gunfight with Palestinian militants. It said it could not determine who was responsible for his death without ballistic analysis.
“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.
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.
Journalists accompanying Abu Akleh, including a man who was wounded in the shooting, said there was no conflict or militants in the immediate area. They were all wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as journalists.
The PA and Al Jazeera, which has long had strained relations with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh. Israel has denied the allegations.
Rights groups say Israel rarely investigates the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and on rare occasions offers liberal punishments. However, the case drew heavy scrutiny as Abu Aqleh was famous and was also an American citizen.
Palestinians in and around Jenin have carried out deadly attacks in Israel in recent weeks, and Israel has launched daily arrest raids in the area, often igniting gun battles with militants.
Israeli troops again pushed into Jenin early on Friday, triggering renewed fighting.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were injured. The Israeli military said Palestinians opened fire when its forces went to arrest suspected militants. Police said a 47-year-old member of a special Israeli commando unit was killed.
Associated Press journalists contributed to Janine, Majdi Mohamed in the West Bank, Fares Akram in Hamilton, Ontario, and Aya Batrawi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.