Jerusalem (AFP) – Israeli riot police on Friday pushed and beat coffin-bearers at the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akle, prompting them to briefly toss the coffin at the shocking start of a march that has turned into the biggest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation.
The scenes of violence are likely to add to the sadness and anger across the Arab world that followed the killing of Abu Okla, who witnesses say was killed by Israeli forces on Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. They also made clear the deep sensitivities about East Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.
Abu Okla, 51, was a family name Across the Arab world, synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of Life Under Israeli rule, which is entering its sixth decade with no end in sight. For 25 years she has been working for the satellite channel, the Palestinians have been revering her as a local heroine.
Thousands of people, many of them waving Palestinian flags and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” attended the funeral. It is believed to be the largest Palestinian funeral in Jerusalem since the death in 2001 of Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian leader and scion of a prominent family.
Before the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort her coffin from a hospital in East Jerusalem to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many mourners raised Palestinian flags, and the crowds began chanting: “We sacrifice our lives and blood for you, Sherine.”
Soon, the Israeli police moved in, pushing the mourners with batons. When the riot police in helmets approached, they hit the pallbearers, causing the man to lose control of the casket as it fell toward the ground. The police removed the Palestinian flags from the hands of the citizens and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Abu Oqla’s brother, Tony, said that the scenes “prove that Sherine’s reports and her honest words… had a great impact.”
Al-Jazeera correspondent Guevara Badiri said that the police crackdown is like killing Abu Okla again. “It seems that her voice is not silent,” she said during a report to the announcer.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, in the 1967 Middle East War. It claims the eternal capital of the entire city and annexed the eastern sector in a move not recognized internationally.
The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state. Israel routinely cracks down on any show of support for a Palestinian state. The often conflicting claims to East Jerusalem turns to violenceHelp fueling the 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants last year, and most recently sparked weeks of unrest at the city’s most sensitive holy site.
Outside of prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque, Israel rarely allows large Palestinian gatherings in East Jerusalem and routinely cracks down on any show of support for a Palestinian state.
Police said protesters in the hospital chanted “national incitement”, ignored calls to stop and threw stones at them. “The policemen were forced to move,” the police said. They released a video in which a leader outside the hospital warns the crowd that the police will come in if they don’t stop the agitation and “nationalist songs”.
An Israeli official said that details of the funeral were coordinated with the family ahead of time to ensure it went smoothly, but that “the crowds began to gather around the Shirin Abu Akleh Inn and chaos ensued,” preventing the procession from proceeding along it. intended path. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Earlier this week, Abu Uqla’s brother said the original arrangement was to move the casket in Heart from the hospital to the church, and that after mass, it would be carried across the streets to the cemetery. It was not immediately clear why those plans were changed, and the coffin-bearers left the hospital carrying the coffin.
Al Jazeera said in a statement that the police’s work “violates all international norms and rights.”
She explained that “the occupation forces attacked the late Shireen Abu Akhla, after she stormed the French Hospital in Jerusalem, where they severely beat the coffin bearers.” The network added that it remains committed to covering the news and will not deter it.
Israeli police later escorted the coffin into a black van, tore Palestinian flags from the car as it was on its way to the church.
“We die for Palestine to live!” The crowds echoed. “Our beloved home!”
Then they sang the Palestinian national anthem and chanted “Palestine… Palestine!” Before her body was buried in a cemetery outside the old town.
Her grave is decorated with the Palestinian flag and flowers. The Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot, and the director of the Al-Jazeera bureau, Walid Al-Omari, laid flowers on the grave.
Salah Zahika, a 70-year-old Palestinian, called Abu Okla a “daughter of Jerusalem,” and said the massive crowds were a “reward” for her love of the city.
“We miss her already,” he said, “but what happened today in the city will not be forgotten.”
Abu Okla was a member of the small Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians and Muslims marched side by side on Friday in a show of unity.
She was shot in the head during an Israeli military raid on Jenin in the West Bank. But the circumstances of the shooting are still disputed.
Palestinians say she was killed by army fire, while the Israeli army said on Friday she was killed during a shootout with Palestinian militants. She said she could not determine who was responsible for her death without a ballistic analysis.
“The result of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to determine the source of the fire that injured and killed the journalist,” the army said.
Israel called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal shot. The Palestinian Authority refused, saying it would conduct its own investigation and send the findings to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.
Reporters who were accompanied by Abu Oqla, including one who was shot, said that there were no clashes or activists in the vicinity. They were all wearing protective gear that clearly turned out to be reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera, which has long had tense relations with Israel, accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Uqla. Israel denies these accusations.
Rights groups say seldom follow israel Concerning investigations into the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and handover Reduced penalties On the rare occasions when that happens. However, this case has come under intense scrutiny because Abu Okla was a known and a US citizen as well.
Palestinians from Jenin and its environs They carried out deadly attacks In Israel in recent weeks, Israel has conducted almost daily raids in the area, often igniting gun battles with activists.
Israeli forces moved into Jenin again early Friday, leading to renewed fighting.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were injured. The Israeli military said Palestinians opened fire when its forces entered to arrest suspected activists. Police said a 47-year-old member of an Israeli special commando unit was killed.
Associated Press reporters Magdi Muhammad contributed in Jenin, West Bank, Faris Akram in Hamilton, Ontario, and Aya Elbatrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.