“Unfortunately, during the funeral, intense violence erupted on the part of the participants, which aggravated the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Minister of Public Security, Omar Bar-Lev, told CNN.
“The investigation team appointed by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and headed by Brigadier General Anna Ben Mordechai – an experienced commander familiar with the area where the funeral took place – will conduct a thorough investigation of what happened during the funeral around the funeral. “The next day to draw lessons from the incident these lessons will be presented to the police commissioner and then to me.”
The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in September 2021 that raising the Palestinian flag is not a criminal offense in Israel. However, CNN witnessed the arrest of at least two people who were carrying a flag during the Abu Okla motorcade.
“Raising the Palestinian flag does not constitute a crime under Israeli law,” Israeli MK Ahmad Tibi told CNN on Friday.
“When Omar Bar-Lev was appointed Minister of Public Security for Israel, he issued a directive limiting the confiscation of Palestinian flags from protesters to cases where there was an immediate danger of disturbing the peace. But what the police are doing is in direct conflict with the minister’s orders.. What we are seeing is the phobia of the Palestinian flag.”
When CNN asked for clarification of why Palestinian flags were lowered and individuals carrying the flag were arrested, the Israeli police forces responded with a statement, which was also shared publicly on its Twitter account.
“The Israeli police prepared yesterday to facilitate a quiet and dignified funeral for journalist Shireen Abu Oqla and coordinated the funeral arrangements with her family. Unfortunately, hundreds of rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police,” the statement said.
“The Israel Police supports its officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will draw lessons from the incident,” she added.
The mourners carried, on Friday, the coffin of Abu Akleh from Saint Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem, where her body remained until burial, but it was met with stiff resistance from the Israeli police, who forced her to transport the body by car. CNN reporters said a flash grenade and tear gas were fired.
The 51-year-old Palestinian-American Al Jazeera correspondent has been a prominent voice across the Arab world, delivering what many describe as “the voice of Palestinians’ suffering” and “their aspirations for freedom”.
“She had a huge impact on Palestine and all people. She left her mark in everyone’s heart,” Lareen Abu Okla, Sherine’s niece, told CNN.
Nafisa Khuwais, a Palestinian who considered herself a mother figure to Sherine, told CNN that she spent the whole night at the funeral home as people came to mourn the veteran journalist.
“Sherine, my daughter, her parents died, but we are all her parents. We are all her family,” Khois said.
“Two weeks ago, she hid me behind her back when clashes broke out at the pillar gate, and she said, ‘Mom, come here. I am so worried about you,’” she handed me a bottle of water. I loved Shireen. She was the voice of all Palestinians.”
Friday’s events sparked global reactions from various officials who said they were “shocked” by what they saw.
US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said in a statement: “We are deeply disturbed by the images of the Israeli police interfering with the funeral of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh. Posted on Twitter on Friday.
A senior State Department official later said Blinken spoke to the journalist’s family and expressed his condolences as he headed to an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, Germany.
The official said Blinken offered his “heartfelt condolences for their loss.” The official said Blinken also offered the State Department’s Jerusalem team continued support for their families and noted the importance of a free and independent press.
Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Kar As, said in a tweet that he was “shocked by the violent behavior of the Israeli police forces during the funeral procession,” adding that “such disproportionate force is inappropriate and unacceptable.”