Coffin bearing body of veteran journalist falls as Israeli police beat mourners with batons


There was unrest in Jerusalem on Friday as thousands attended the funeral of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead two days earlier while covering a military raid in the city of Jenin in the West Bank.

Mourners had marched from Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem to Mount Zion Cemetery. They were met with violence at the Saint Joseph Hospital complex by Israeli police when they attempted to carry Abu Akleh’s coffin, which Al Jazeera footage showed was shaken and then dropped from the hands of some of the pallbearers , while the Israeli police beat them with truncheons.

Crowds marched behind as Abu Akleh’s rose-covered coffin was carried by pallbearers and laid to rest next to his parents’ grave. Church bells rang in the cemetery.

The burial took place a day after a memorial procession that brought thousands to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mourners poured into the city streets on Friday and crowded outside St. Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem, where Abu Akleh’s body remains until burial. Muslims performed Friday prayers and mourners chanted “walk, walk on foot”, demanding that Abu Akleh’s coffin be carried and carried on foot from the hospital to the Greek Catholic Church, where a service will be held, then at the burial site. Israeli police were lined up outside the hospital, according to CNN reporters. Police roadblocks have been set up approximately the hospital.

Mourners carried Abu Akleh’s coffin out of the hospital, but encountered strong resistance from Israeli police who forced them to transport the body by car. A flash bomb and tear gas were fired, according to CNN reporters.

Family and friends carry Abu Akleh's coffin, as Israeli security forces stand guard during his funeral in Jerusalem on May 13.

Live footage from Al Jazeera showed Israeli police beating mourners with batons as they struggled to carry Abu Akleh’s coffin. The body was in turn brought back inside the hospital and then transported by car, Al Jazeera said.

Footage circulating on social media and Al Jazeera showed Abu Akleh’s coffin rocking back and forth, then falling as Israeli police beat the pallbearers with batons. It was not immediately clear if the coffin had hit the ground.

Israel Police said in a statement that “hundreds of rioters began to disrupt public order, even before the funeral began,” as they struggled to secure the motorcade.

“Hundreds of individuals gathered in front of the French Hospital (Saint-Joseph Hospital) in Sheikh Jarrah and began chanting incitement to nationalism,” the statement added.

“Towards the exit of the coffin from the hospital, rioters began throwing stones at the police from the esplanade of the French hospital, and the police were forced to act.”

Israeli police approached pallbearers carrying Abu Akleh's body with batons during his funeral on Friday.

Thousands of people were packed inside and outside the church when Abu Akleh’s body arrived. Women were heard screaming in mourning and priests sang Christian hymns in Arabic as the coffin, draped in Palestinian flags, was carried through the crowd.

The 51-year-old Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist was a leading voice in the Arab world, delivering what many have called “the voice of Palestinian suffering” and their “aspirations for freedom”. .

The circumstances of his death remain unclear. The Palestinian Authority on Thursday rejected Israel’s offer for a joint investigation, insisting on an independent process and promising to try those accused of its murder before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayyeh told Al Jazeera on Thursday that the results of their investigation will be released soon and will include the autopsy report.

Israel says it is investigating Abu Akleh’s death. Asked by CNN how she was killed, IDF international spokesman Amnon Shefler said Thursday “we just don’t know yet” who shot her.

Israeli military investigators have confiscated the weapons of some IDF soldiers as part of their investigation, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing an unnamed IDF official. The weapons were taken so they could be made available for ballistic testing, the official said.

Givara Al-Buderi, another Al Jazeera correspondent and close personal friend of Abu Akleh, said she saw the bullet entry wound just above her right eyebrow and the doctor told her that part of the bullet remained lodged in Abu Akleh’s skull.

Al-Buderi was called by doctors to help remove Abu Akleh’s clothes and change her for the funeral.

“We took her clothes off and had to put a white dress on her,” Al-Buderi told CNN. “I tried to put my hand behind his head, but there was nothing.”

“I felt around but there was nothing, nothing more.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated where Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral was to take place. He was standing in a Greek Catholic church.

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