Israel's Health Ministry to Probe Violence During Slain Al Jazeera Journalist's Funeral

'I’ve never seen an assault as violent as this directed at a hospital,' said the director of the Palestinian hospital where the procession began for the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

The Health Ministry ordered a review into the violence at the East Jerusalem funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh earlier this month, during which police were filmed striking mourners with batons.

Shortly after Abu Akleh's funeral procession left the Palestinian-run St. Joseph's Hospital, clashes broke out between mourners and the police and, when police struck pallbearers with batons, they nearly caused it to fall.

Israeli forces attacking mourners carrying the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, earlier this month.

The police claim that they acted only after mourners near the casket threw stones and other objects at them.

The incident prompted widespread international criticism of the officers’ behavior and created a storm across the Arab world, especially in East Jerusalem. A statement released by the heads of the Christian community in Jerusalem sharply condemned the police’s conduct.

This handout file picture obtained from a former colleague of Al-Jazeera's late veteran TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shows her reporting from Jerusalem in June.Credit: AFP

Several days after the incident, the hospital released security-camera showing police shooting stun grenades at the hospital entrance and entering the building, shoving medical staff in the corridors and waving batons at them. One doctor at the hospital entrance suffered burns on his leg from a stun grenade.

Hospital administrators said they planned to take the Israel Police to court over the matter.

Health Ministry Director General Dr. Nachman Ash has ordered East Jerusalem hospitals to submit a report to him on what happened at the hospital and on police conduct, although St. Joseph's director Dr. Jamil Koussa said no one from the ministry or the police had been in contact with him.

“I’ve never seen an assault as violent as this directed at a hospital," he said in an interview. "It is unthinkable. If it had happened at Shaare Zedek or Hadassah, they would have dealt with it in a completely different way,” Koussa said, referring to two Jewish-run hospitals in Jerusalem.

St. Joseph’s, which is located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, is one of two large Palestinian hospitals in the city. In contrast with the other, Al Makassed Hospital, St. Joseph’s takes care of many Jewish patients and its maternity ward is popular with Jewish women. Al Makassed often complains about the police entering there to make arrests or to search for suspects.

Abu Akleh, who was a U.S. citizen, was killed during a raid by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin. The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of killing Abu Akleh, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to take the case to the International Criminal Court. The Israel Defense Forces said its interim investigation could not determine whether she was killed by Israeli or Palestinian gunfire, and ultimately announced it will not investigate the shooting further.

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