Clashes With Police Erupt at Palestinian Journalist's Funeral Procession

In an interim report from the Israeli military's probe says investigators are still unable to determine who killed Shireen Abu Akleh

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Mourners carry the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin, as clashes erupted with Israeli forces in Jerusalem, on Friday.
Mourners carry the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin, as clashes erupted with Israeli forces in Jerusalem, on Friday.Credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters

The funeral procession of slain Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday was marred by clashes with Israeli police forces in Jerusalem, who used stun grenades on a crowd in Sheikh Jarrah.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital where the procession began, with many of them flying Palestinian flags and chanting what police dubbed "nationalistic incitement calls." At least 10 required medical assistance.

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Israeli Police said six rioters have been arrested so far over attacking police officers during the procession.

Television footage from the procession shows Israeli forces striking with clubs mourners who were carrying Abu Akleh's casket.

Police arrest an activist during Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral, on Friday.

Police said the group of Palestinian rioters had begun throwing stones in the hospital compound. "The policemen were forced to act," they added. There was no immediate comment from Palestinian authorities.

Sen. Chris Murphy, who chairs the Senate subcommittee dealing with the Middle East, described the scenes as "awful to watch," adding that he has his team "working to get answers about what happened here."

Abu Akleh, a household name for many Palestinians and Arabs, reported on the Israeli occupation and other regional issues for many years. She was shot dead on Wednesday while covering a military raid in Jenin.

An interim report from the Israeli military's investigation into the incident said on Friday it was still impossible to determine whether the bullet that killed her was fired by Israeli soldiers or Palestinian militants.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round. The Palestinian Authority has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and take the case to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.

The Israeli report outlines two scenarios: Either Abu Akleh was hit by shots fired by Palestinian militants who were aiming at the Israeli force, or by gunfire from an Israeli sniper who was aiming at a Palestinian gunman.

Palestinians pay tribute to slain Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in front of the hospital where her body is kept, hours before her funeral in Jerusalem, Friday.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI - AFP

The Israeli soldier was shooting through a small opening, the army said, "and there's a possibility that the reporter stood near the terrorist." Abu Akleh was about 200 meters (650 feet) away from the sniper.

The funeral service was held at a Catholic church in Jerusalem's Old City, near the Damascus Gate. Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians continued there, too, after police tried to block the street leading to the church.

Many Palestinians called people on social media platforms to hold a general strike on Friday so to encourage more people to attend the funeral.

Israel's Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Freige of Meretz condemned the police's conduct saying it "marred the memory and funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh today," and that attempts to confiscate the Palestinian flags at the event led to an unnecessary flare-up."

"How ugly and miserable is the face of the damned occupation! The occupation not only murdered Shireen Abu Akleh, may she rest in peace, in cold blood, it also prevents many of the participants to grieve her death."

Qatar-based Al Jazeera said its managing director, Ahmad Alyafei, would travel to Jerusalem to attend the funeral.

The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh within hours of her death. Israel says a full investigation is needed before any conclusions can be drawn as to whether the fatal shot was fired by its forces or Palestinian militants.

Abu Akleh, 51, had joined Al Jazeera's Arabic-language service in 1997 and rose to prominence covering the second intifada in the early 2000s. The veteran reporter was a widely respected member of the local press corps.

Reuters and Ben Samuels contributed to this report.

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