Israel's Top Cop on Al Jazeera Journalist’s Funeral: We Were Wrong, but No Heads Should Roll

An Israeli police investigation into the handling of slain journalist Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral in Jerusalem concluded that the event amounted to police misconduct, though no overseeing commanders will be punished

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
Israeli police confront mourners carrying the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in Jerusalem, Friday, May 13, 2022.
Israeli police confront mourners carrying the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in Jerusalem, Friday, May 13, 2022.Credit: AP Photo/Maya Levin
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Israel's Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai reiterated on Thursday that police actions at Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral, during which forces assaulted pallbearers, nearly causing them to drop the coffin, "were wrong."

“The bottom line is that the conduct of police officers there was wrong, but not every investigation has to end with heads rolling,” Shabtai said at a lawyers’ conference in Tel Aviv.

According to Shabtai, “When you see police officers employing batons, that’s not a picture I want to see.” He added that the forces could have prevented the violent incidents, and that lessons were drawn from the event.

According to sources, Abu Akleh's coffin was initially slated to be carried from the hospital by vehicle through the procession, in agreement with police, but instead, it was carried by pallbearers on foot without permission from the police. The driver who was meant to lead the Palestinian icon's coffin apparently asked police for help as a result.

The sources added that the police forces were not prepared to handle rioters at the hospital, and did not take control of the exit gate – which ultimately enabled mourners to reach the coffin.

Television footage from the funeral procession showed Israeli forces striking mourners carrying Abu Akleh's casket with clubs. Israeli police said at the time that a group of Palestinian rioters had begun throwing stones in the hospital compound, and that policemen had been "forced to act."

An Israeli police investigation into the handling of the event found that the incidents amounted to police misconduct, sources told Haaretz. None of the commanders overseeing the event will be disciplined, however, in a decision that was made prior to the investigation.

On Thursday, twenty-four U.S. senators urged U.S. President Joe Biden in a letter to directly involve the United States in investigating Abu Akleh's killing say, "the U.S. government has an obligation to ensure that a comprehensive, impartial, and open investigation into her shooting death is conducted — one in which all parties can have full confidence in the ultimate findings."

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