JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police decided Saturday to investigate the conduct of their officers as they raided the funeral of a slain Al Jazeera journalist, causing mourners to briefly lay down coffins at the ceremony in Jerusalem.
Police beat the bier with batons at the start of a funeral procession for Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, who was killed in a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, witnesses said. Killed by Israeli forces.
The shocking scene at the funeral, and the death of the 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist, has drawn worldwide condemnation and calls for investigations, including by the United States and the United Nations.
In a statement Saturday, Israeli police said their commissioner had directed an investigation to be completed in the next few days. “The Israeli police supports its police, but as a professional organization seeking to learn and improve, it will also learn from this incident,” the statement said.
Police said they used force as hundreds of “thugs tried to disrupt the ceremony and injure police officers”.
The attack on the funeral added to the grief and outrage following the death of Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist and a household name across the Arab world. They also illustrate a profound sensitivity to East Jerusalem – an area claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians that has sparked repeated violence.
Before the funeral, 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 carried Palestinian flags, and the crowd began chanting: “We sacrificed our souls and blood for you, Shireen.”
Soon after, Israeli police moved in and shoved mourners. As helmeted riot police approached, they hit the coffin, causing a man to lose control of the coffin, which fell to the ground. Police ripped Palestinian flags from people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
On Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the U.S. government was “disturbed by images of Israeli police breaking into the funeral procession for fellow U.S. citizen Abu Ackley.” “Every family deserves to rest their loved ones in a dignified and unhindered way,” he tweeted.
On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned and called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into her killing” in a rare statement.
Late Friday, Palestinian prosecutors said preliminary findings showed that Abu Akl was killed by Israeli forces deliberately firing. Prosecutors said the investigation will continue. The Israeli military said earlier on Friday that she was killed in an exchange of fire with Palestinian militants and could not determine the source of the shooting that killed her.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and urged it to hand over the bullets for forensic analysis to determine who fired the deadly bullet. The Palestinian Authority has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible war crimes by Israel.
The Palestinian Authority and Al Jazeera, which has long had tensions with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akl. Israel denies the allegations.
Abu Akleh is 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 solidarity.
She was shot in the head during an Israeli military attack on the West Bank town of Jenin on Wednesday morning.
Associated Press writer Fares Akram in Hamilton, Ontario contributed.
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