Israeli Police Attack Mourners at Palestinian Journalist's Funeral - The New York Times
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jbb • one week ago • 3 comments
By: Al Jazeera (nytimes)
Video showed police officers in Jerusalem beating and kicking mourners next to the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera reporter who was killed on Wednesday, forcing one to the ground.
May 13, 2022 Updated 6:56 p.m. ET
Video Video showed Israeli police officers attacking mourners at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera who was killed this week in the West Bank.CreditCredit...Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Pallbearers are forced to nearly drop Shireen Abu Akleh's coffin.
ImageIsraeli police attacking mourners carrying the casket of Shireen Abu Akleh in East Jerusalem on Friday.Credit...Maya Levin/Associated Press
Israeli police officers on Friday assaulted mourners at the funeral procession of a prominent Palestinian American journalist killed this week in the occupied West Bank, forcing pallbearers to nearly drop the coffin.
Video showed police officers in Jerusalem beating and kicking pallbearers carrying the coffin that contained the body of the journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, striking other mourners with batons, and forcing one man to the ground. During the commotion, the pallbearers were pushed backward, causing them to briefly lose control of one end of the coffin.
The episode occurred outside a hospital in East Jerusalem, where mourners had gathered to take the coffin of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was a Christian, to a nearby church for her funeral.
It was one of several spasms of tension during a fraught afternoon, as riot police in several locations in East Jerusalem faced off against crowds of mourners waving Palestinian flags and chanting Palestinian slogans. Israel considers East Jerusalem part of its capital, but it is predominantly populated by Palestinians, and much of the international community considers it occupied territory.
The violence at the funeral procession lasted for roughly a minute, and followed a tense standoff between riot police and mourners in which at least one empty plastic bottle was thrown in the direction of the police.
The police then suddenly advanced on the coffin, swinging batons and aiming kicks at the mourners. As the officers advanced, mourners threw projectiles, including what appeared to be a stick, and officers threw what appeared to be stun and smoke grenades.
In a statement, the Israeli police said they "took enforcement action" after some mourners began chanting "nationalist incitement" and after officers had given the crowd a warning. As the coffin was carried out of the hospital, police said, they were "forced to act" because "rioters began throwing stones toward the policemen."
The police later distributed video showing an empty plastic bottle and two other bottle-shaped objects being thrown in the direction of the officers in the moments before they advanced on the pallbearers, and a separate undated video showing several stones on the ground. There was no clear indication of when or how the stones had reached that spot.
Ms. Abu Akleh was shot dead on Wednesday morning in the occupied West Bank during an Israeli raid on the city of Jenin. Witnesses said she was killed by an Israeli soldier.
The Israeli Army said on Friday that while it was possible Ms. Abu Akleh was mistakenly killed by Israeli fire, its initial investigation suggested that she might also have been hit by a Palestinian gunman.
On Thursday, the Israeli police warned Ms. Abu Akleh's family about displaying "flags and slogans" at the funeral, said Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Knesset, Israel's Parliament.
At one point during the funeral, a man holding up a wreath stood between the pallbearers and the police. Later, as the black hearse carrying her coffin began to slowly make its way through the crowd, an Israeli police officer ripped three Palestinian flags off the vehicle and threw them to the ground, video showed.
Church bells throughout the Old City rang out as mourners chanted, "With our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice for you, Shireen."
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Israeli public security minister, Omer Bar Lev, who oversees the police.
The funeral was attended by thousands of people and came a day after a state memorial service was held in the West Bank city of Ramallah. At that service, mourners stood in the courtyard of the Palestinian Authority's presidential headquarters to eulogize and bid farewell to a person many Palestinians consider a trailblazing journalist.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, awarded her the Star of Jerusalem, also known as the Quds Star. One of the highest honors the Palestinian president can bestow, it is traditionally awarded to ministers, ambassadors and members of Parliament. Mr. Abbas described Ms. Abu Akleh as a "martyr for truth and for the free word."
Her coffin was taken for burial in Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, next to those of her parents.
Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Nazareth, Israel, and Iyad Abu Hweila from Gaza City.
— Patrick Kingsley and Raja Abdulrahim reporting from Jerusalem
Shireen Abu Akleh was a journalist who wanted 'to be close to the people.'
ImageShireen Abu Akleh reporting from Jerusalem last June.Credit...via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Shireen Abu Akleh originally studied to be an architect but could not see a future for herself in the field. So she decided to go into journalism instead, becoming one of the best-known Palestinian reporters.
"I chose journalism to be close to the people," she said in a short reel shared by Al Jazeera soon after she was killed on Wednesday by gunfire in the West Bank. "It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I was able to bring their voice to the world."
A Palestinian American, Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, was a familiar face on the Al Jazeera network, where she spent 25 years reporting, making her name amid the violence of the Palestinian uprising known as the second intifada, which convulsed Israel and the occupied West Bank beginning in 2000.
Born in Jerusalem to a Catholic family, Ms. Abu Akleh studied in Jordan, graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She spent time in the United States when she was younger and obtained U.S. citizenship through family on her mother's side, who lived in New Jersey, friends and colleagues said.
Al Jazeera said that after graduating from college, she worked for several media outlets, including Voice of Palestine radio and the Amman Satellite Channel, before joining Al Jazeera in 1997. She soon became a household name among Palestinians and Arabs across the Middle East, inspiring many to follow in her path.
In a 2017 interview with the Palestinian television channel An-Najah NBC, she was asked whether she was ever afraid of being shot.
"Of course I get scared," she said. "In a specific moment you forget that fear. We don't throw ourselves to death. We go and we try to find where we can stand and how to protect the team with me before I think about how I am going to go up on the screen and what I am going to say."
Mohammed Daraghmeh, the Ramallah bureau chief for the Arabic language news outlet Asharq News, who was friends with Ms. Abu Akleh for many years, said she had remained committed to covering all issues affecting the Palestinians, big and small.
He had last spoken with her two days earlier, he said on Wednesday, and told her that he did not think the events in Jenin were important enough for a journalist as senior as her to cover.
"But she went anyway," he said. "She covered the story the way it should be done."
— Raja Abdulrahim and Ben Hubbard
'A needless flare-up,' 'appalled by the violence': Denunciations of the police attack multiply.
ImageThe coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh being carried through Jerusalem on Friday.Credit...Ammar Awad/Reuters
As Shireen Abu Akleh was laid to rest on Friday, the police attack on her funeral procession highlighted for many colleagues and officials what it is like for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
"Today the Jerusalem police desecrated Shireen Abu Akleh's memory and funeral," Israel's regional cooperation minister, Esawi Frej, one of the first Arabs to serve as an Israeli minister, wrote on Twitter.
What Mr. Frej called the police force's "brutality and its zeal to seize every Palestinian flag" produced "a needless flare-up," he wrote. "The police showed zero respect for the mourners and zero understanding of its role as the organization that is responsible for maintaining order, not its violation."
In a statement, the Israeli police said they acted after some mourners began chanting "nationalist incitement" and some threw projectiles at them. The police distributed video showing an empty plastic bottle and two other bottle-shaped objects being thrown toward the officers.
European Union diplomats called the police response "unnecessary" and said it only fueled further tension.
"Today, EU and like-minded partners attended the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh in occupied East Jerusalem," the European Union Delegation to the Palestinians said in a comment posted on Twitter. "Appalled by the violence in the St Joseph Hospital compound and the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession."
The episode occurred as the procession moved from the hospital compound in East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967 but is still considered occupied territory by much of the world, to her grave in the Old City.
U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American serving in the House of Representatives, wrote on Twitter that the attack showed that the "dehumanization" of Ms. Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American, "continues after death."
She called on the U.S. State Department to condemn the police response — "or does being Palestinian make you less American?" she asked.
At the White House, the press secretary Jen Psaki described the footage as "deeply disturbing" and said, "We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession."
Criticism came from other fronts as well. Yaakov Katz, the editor of the Jerusalem Post, an English-language Israeli newspaper, said on Twitter: "What's happening at Abu Akleh's funeral is terrible. This is a failure on all fronts."
In a second tweet written in Hebrew about the Israeli police, Mr. Katz added: "Is it not time for some accountability?"
Qatar's foreign ministry, where the Al Jazeera channel is based, laid blame on the Israeli police for Ms. Abu Akleh's killing and saidthat the authorities "continued terrorizing the civilians and the funeral attendees until her final resting place."
Hiba Yazbek contributed reporting from Nazareth, Israel.
— Raja Abdulrahim reporting from Jerusalem
Israel investigates whether Shireen Abu Akleh was shot from an Israeli Army jeep.
ImageMujahed al-Saadi, a Palestinian journalist, escorted the body of Shireen Abu Akleh to a hospital in Jenin after she was fatally shot on Wednesday.Credit...Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The attack on mourners at Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral procession occurred as the Israeli Army released its most cautious and detailed assessment yet about who was responsible for her death on Wednesday.
Palestinian witnesses said Ms. Abu Akleh was shot dead by Israeli soldiers while covering an Israeli raid on Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank. Israeli officials have not ruled out that possibility but have consistently said that her killer could have been a Palestinian militant.
On Friday afternoon, the Israeli Army released the findings of its preliminary investigation, again concluding that it was "not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh."
But the report also for the first time set out a scenario in which an Israeli soldier, firing from a military vehicle, might have mistakenly hit Ms. Abu Akleh during a shootout with Palestinian militants.
The army's statement still suggested that she might have been hit by Palestinians aiming at Israeli soldiers. But it also said that an Israeli soldier in an armored vehicle, using a telescopic sight, "fired a few bullets from a designated firing hole" at a Palestinian gunman in the vicinity of Ms. Abu Akleh.
"There is the possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh," who the army said stood behind the militant, "was hit by the soldier's fire," the statement said.
But the statement added that the army would still likely need to assess the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh in order to increase the chances of drawing a certain conclusion.
Each bullet is flecked with microscopic marks unique to the gun that fired it, like a signature, ballistics experts and military officials said.
That means the bullet could reveal if it was fired from a rifle used by an Israeli soldier involved in the raid, as long as the rifle was not tampered with in the aftermath of the incident.
The Palestinian Authority, which manages the part of the West Bank where the raid occurred, has possession of the bullet and has refused Israeli requests to assess it in an Israeli laboratory, under joint American and Palestinian supervision.
— Patrick Kingsley reporting from Jerusalem
Palestinian prosecutors say the journalist was deliberately killed by Israeli forces.
ImageChildren visiting the site in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot on Wednesday.Credit...Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Palestinian investigators have concluded that the veteran Al Jazeera journalist killed Wednesday was shot deliberately by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, according to a preliminary report released on Friday night by the Palestinian Authority's public prosecutor's office.
"The only source of gunfire at the crime scene was from the occupation forces at the time Shireen Abu Akleh was wounded," the preliminary report stated. "The investigations also indicate that the occupation forces deliberately committed their crime."
In making that assessment, investigators cited bullet marks on a tree near Ms. Abu Akleh's location that they said indicated Israeli soldiers had shot directly toward her. Israeli forces were some 150 meters away, the report said.
Ms. Abu Akleh was wearing a blue flak jacket and a helmet marked with the word "Press" when she was shot.
Continued fire hindered fellow journalists and bystanders from reaching her, the report said.
The report's conclusions were based on an autopsy, evidence from the scene and interviews with witnesses, including another Al Jazeera journalist who was shot in the back. The autopsy's findings have not been released.
Palestinian officials have rejected Israeli calls to jointly investigate the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, a Palestinian American journalist, during an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin on Wednesday morning.
The report, citing the autopsy, said Ms. Abu Akleh was shot in the head and died of a cerebral laceration caused by a high-speed bullet. The bullet went through her skull, hit the inside of the protective helmet she was wearing and ricocheted back into her skull, according to the report's account.
The results of forensic tests on the bullet are still pending and the investigation is continuing, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said.
The bullet has become the focus of separate efforts by Palestinians and Israelis to investigate the killing. Etchings on the bullet could match it to the gun that fired it. Palestinian officials have rejected Israel's request to examine the bullet.
The release of the Palestinians' preliminary report came hours after the Israeli Army released its own preliminary findings, concluding that it was "not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh."
The Israeli report did set out a scenario in which Israeli forces might have hit Ms. Abu Akleh, explaining that a soldier in an armored vehicle, using a telescopic sight, "fired a few bullets from a designated firing hole" at a Palestinian gunman in the vicinity of Ms. Abu Akleh.
But the Israeli statement said that she could also have been hit by Palestinians aiming at Israeli soldiers.
Palestinian officials said they intended to refer the case to the International Criminal Court.
"We reject a joint investigation with the Israeli state, because it is the one that committed this crime," the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, said on Thursday. "And because we don't trust them, and we will go immediately to the International Criminal Court to pursue the criminals."
— Raja Abdulrahim reporting from Jerusalem
The killing occurred amid weeks of violence.
ImagePalestinian demonstrators clashing with the Israeli police at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem in April.Credit...Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh came amid weeks of violence in which Arab assailants have carried out fatal attacks in several Israeli cities, prompting the Israeli military to step up what it described as counterterrorist operations in the occupied West Bank, causing additional deaths.
During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ended about two weeks ago, Palestinian protesters and Israeli police officers repeatedly clashed at a holy site in Jerusalem revered by Muslims as the Aqsa Mosque compound and by Jews as the Temple Mount.
The Israeli Army has focused arrest raids in and around Jenin, where Ms. Abu Akleh was killed on Wednesday. Some of the Palestinians suspected in the recent attacks hailed from Jenin and its refugee camp, long hotbeds of militancy in the northern West Bank.
The two Palestinian men accused of carrying out an ax attack that killed three Israeli civilians last week in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Elad came from Rumana, part of the Jenin district. Israeli troops raided the village on Sunday night, arresting two people. The military said they were suspected of assisting the assailants.
The wave of attacks began in late March, when a Palestinian man from the West Bank who sympathized with the Islamic State fatally stabbed a Moldovan worker in an apartment in Jerusalem, apparently mistaking him for an Israeli Jew, according to the police.
Since then, Arab assailants have carried out fatal attacks in the Israeli cities of Beersheba, Hadera, Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak, in addition to Elad. Palestinian gunmen also killed an Israeli guard at the entrance of Ariel, a large Jewish settlement in the heart of the West Bank.
At least 19 people — 16 Israelis and three foreign workers — have been killed in attacks by Arabs since late March, according to the Israeli authorities.
During the same period, more than 30 Palestinians have been killed, according to local news reports. Most were involved in attacks, attempted attacks or confrontations with Israeli forces, according to official Israeli accounts, though some were unarmed or apparently caught in crossfire.
— Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem
The lethal bullet is the focus of dueling investigations.
ImagePalestinian artists painting a mural in honor of Shireen Abu Akleh in Gaza City on Thursday.Credit...Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The bullet that killed the Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday has become a central point of contention in the competing efforts by Israelis and Palestinians to investigate who shot her.
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday declined a request to let Israeli officials examine the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh, a prominent reporter for Al Jazeera who was killed in the occupied West Bank during an Israeli raid.
The authority said it would investigate Ms. Abu Akleh's death independently, rejecting Israeli calls for a joint inquiry and for the bullet to be assessed in an Israeli laboratory under international supervision.
Palestinian officials and witnesses accused Israeli soldiers of killing Ms. Abu Akleh, dismissing Israeli claims that the journalist may have been hit by Palestinian fire during a shootout in Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank.
Palestinian leaders said that Israel could not be trusted to investigate the killing, while Israeli officials said that the Palestinians had refused to provide the bullet in order to hide the truth.
Video from the scene did not show the moment when the bullet hit Ms. Abu Akleh, or who fired it.
Both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants involved in the Jenin clashes were carrying M16 assault rifles, guns that use the same 5.56-millimeter bullets, Israeli officials said.
— Isabel Kershner reporting from Jerusalem
Video captures the moments after Shireen Abu Akleh was shot.
Video Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank.CreditCredit...Al Jazeera, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Video broadcast by Al Jazeera, Shireen Abu Akleh's employer, captures the sound of gunfire and yelling as Ms. Abu Akleh and her colleagues came under fire while covering an Israeli army raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.
The footage does not show the moment when Ms. Abu Akleh was shot, but after audible gunfire in the first few seconds, a man can be heard yelling: "Ambulance! Ambulance!"
The filmer moves closer, and Ms. Abu Akleh is seen lying motionless face down as a man and another journalist, identified by the network as Shatha Hanaysha, try to reach Ms. Abu Akleh but are forced back by gunfire.
In the footage, both women are wearing blue protective vests marked "Press" and helmets.
Another Al Jazeera journalist in the group, Ali Samoudi, was shot in the back. From the hospital, he said that they were clearly identified as journalists before the attack. "We were obvious," he said.
— Sarah Kerr