Israel Begins Investigation of Police Actions at Funeral

Officers beat mourners during procession for Al Jazeera journalist
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2022 11:07 AM CDT
Updated May 14, 2022 12:40 PM CDT
Funeral for Slain Al Jazeera Journalist Turns Violent
Mourners carry slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral procession in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday.   (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Update: Israeli police announced Saturday they're investigating the actions of officers during a journalist's funeral that became violent. International criticism of the officers, who attacked pallbearers trying to reach a church in Jerusalem, has been widespread since the confrontation Friday, the Wall Street Journal reports. President Biden is among the foreign leaders who have urged an investigation. A police statement said the investigation should be completed in days, per the AP. "The Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident," the statement said. Our original story from Friday follows:

The funeral for Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killed Wednesday in the West Bank town of Jenin during an Israeli raid, saw its own violence. CNN reports that prior to the funeral walk on Friday attended by hundreds, Israeli cops lined up outside the hospital in East Jerusalem where the 51-year-old's body was being held, ahead of plans by mourners to transport her coffin from the hospital to a nearby Greek Orthodox church for a service, then to a Christian cemetery on the Mount of Olives. However, when Abu Akleh's casket emerged from the hospital, carried by mourners, the Israeli security forces descended on the crowd and began beating them with batons and using tear gas and flash bombs, per CNN.

Video shared online shows clips of the chaos, as those transporting the coffin through the streets momentarily lost control of it and almost dropped it to the ground, per the Washington Post. Only after the coffin was brought back to the hospital and placed in a hearse was it allowed to continue on its journey, with an Israeli police escort. The Post notes that Abu Akleh's own brother had earlier implored the crowd, "For God's sake, let us put her in the car and finish the day," but those wishes had been resisted, as many in the crowd wanted to walk with the coffin. Police said the crowd was throwing stones at officers and chanting "nationalist incitement," per the AP. “The policemen were forced to act,” police said.

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Meanwhile, Israel now appears to be hedging on initial statements made by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett suggesting there was a "considerable chance" Abu Akleh had been killed by erratically firing Palestinians during the Wednesday raid. Per CBS News, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz now says it could have been gunfire from "our side" that felled the reporter. "We are not certain how she was killed, but we want to get to the bottom of this incident." Israel's call for a joint investigation into Abu Akleh's death has been rebuffed by Palestinians. "We refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently," Hussein Al-Sheikh, a high-ranking Palestinian Authority official and ally of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, tweeted Thursday. (More Al Jazeera stories.)

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