Israeli security forces beat Palestinian mourners at Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral

Footage showed journalist's coffin almost falling from the shoulders of the pall bearers as they were rushed by Israeli personnel

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Members of Israel's security forces have beaten coffin bearers and mourners at the funeral of veteran US-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Jerusalem, two days after she was shot dead in an Israeli army raid.

Live footage from Jerusalem's Old City on Friday showed her coffin almost falling from the shoulders of the pall bearers as they were chased by Israeli personnel.

The Al Jazeera journalist’s body had been transferred from the occupied West Bank.

As the journey to take her remains from St Louis French Hospital to a local church began, Israeli forces rushed people at the site.

Mourners carry the coffin of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in Jerusalem. AP

Israeli forces reportedly wanted mourners to travel in cars rather than walk with Abu Akleh's coffin in the streets. A protest ensued, and one Palestinian was arrested, Al Jazeera reported.

Abu Akleh's coffin was eventually placed in a hearse and driven to the church where a funeral service was to take place.

Thousands gathered outside the church as the service was conducted. After the service, Abu Akleh's body was taken to Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery.

In a statement, Israeli police said they had held dialogue with Abu Akleh's family in advance to “enable a respectable funeral”.

“Unfortunately, under the auspices of the funeral and taking cynical advantage of it, hundreds of people began disrupting the public order before it even began,” police said.

“As the coffin was about to exit the hospital, stones began to be thrown at officers from the hospital's plaza, and the officers were forced to use riot dispersal means.”

Police also released a video in which an officer, outside the hospital grounds, addressed the crowd with a loudspeaker.

“If you don't stop these chants and (Palestinian) nationalistic songs we will have to disperse you using force and we won't let the funeral take place,” the officer says in the video.

Al Jazeera and the Palestinian authorities blame Israeli soldiers for her death. Israel initially blamed Palestinian gunmen before backtracking, saying it was difficult to determine who was responsible.

The Israeli authorities said they are investigating.

The US, EU, UN and regional countries have called for a full investigation into what Al Jazeera called a deliberate killing “in cold blood”. The Palestinian Authority has rejected holding a joint probe with Israel.

US envoy to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was “deeply distressed” by the images from the funeral procession.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “We regret the intrusion on what should have been a peaceful procession.”

Security forces tore flags from the hands of mourners as Abu Akleh's coffin was carried. AFP

In a sign of her prominence, Abu Akleh, 51, was given what was described as a full state memorial at Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's Ramallah compound on Thursday, with officials, foreign diplomats and a long stream of mourners taking part.

“Her voice entered every home, and her loss is a wound in our hearts,” said mourner Hadil Hamdan.

Thousands lined the route as her coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag, was driven through the West Bank city, where a street is to be renamed in her honour.

Many held flowers, wreaths and pictures of the journalist, who was widely praised for her bravery and professionalism throughout her coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“This crime should not go unpunished,” Mr Abbas said during the memorial, adding that the Palestinian Authority held Israel “completely responsible” for her death.

Immediately after the shooting, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said it was “likely” Abu Akleh was killed by stray Palestinian gunfire. But a few hours later, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said that it could have been “the Palestinians who shot her” or fire from “our side”.

While reporting in Jenin, Abu Akleh was wearing a bulletproof vest emblazoned with the word “press”, as well as a helmet.

On a visit to Tehran, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim blamed “Israeli occupation forces” for the “heinous crime”.

Grief over Abu Akleh's killing spread beyond Palestine, with protests taking place in Turkey, Sudan and elsewhere.

She “was the sister of all Palestinians,” her brother Antoun Abu Akleh told AFP.

Draped in a Palestinian scarf, mourner Tariq Ahmed, 45, described the death as a “tragedy for all the nation”, comparing his grief to what he felt at the funeral of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“I have not felt this pain since Arafat died,” Mr Ahmed said.

Ibrahim Abu Allan, 52, attended the memorial in his wheelchair, having travelled from the southern West Bank.

“The road was difficult, but Shireen deserves a farewell,” he said.

The bullet that killed Abu Akleh

Israel has publicly called for a joint investigation and stressed the need for the Palestinian authorities to hand over the fatal bullet for forensic examination.

Mr Abbas said the proposal had been rejected.

The EU has called for an independent probe while the US said that the killing should be “transparently investigated”, calls echoed by UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet.

PA official Hussein Al Sheikh, a close confidant of Mr Abbas, said the Palestinian investigation would be completed independently.

An initial postmortem and forensic examination were conducted in the West Bank city of Nablus hours after her death.

Reporting by AFP

Updated: May 13, 2022, 6:10 PM
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