Israeli forces have attacked a funeral procession for a Palestinian American journalist shot dead this week, kicking and hitting people with batons and causing mourners carrying her coffin to lose balance and drop it to the ground.
Police said mourners were “disrupting public order”. Footage showed the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aqleh on mourners’ shoulders outside St Joseph’s hospital in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as police rushed in and attacked people, several of whom held Palestinian flags. The sound of a stun grenade could be heard.
Israel forbids public displays of Palestinian flags and often prevents people from hoisting them at rallies and protests in the city.
A senior Palestinian figure, Hanan Ashrawi, tweeted that “savage Israeli ‘special forces’ viciously attack the funeral procession bearing the coffin” of Abu Aqleh as it left St Joseph’s hospital. “The inhumanity [of] Israel is on full display,” said the former Palestine Liberation Organization official.
Police said they had held talks with Abu Aqleh’s family in order to “enable a respectable funeral. Unfortunately, under the auspices of the funeral and taking cynical advantage of it, hundreds of people began disrupting public order before [the funeral] even began.
“As the coffin was about to exit the hospital, stones began to be thrown at officers from the hospital’s plaza, and the officers were forced to use riot dispersal means.”
Police released a video in which an officer outside the hospital grounds addresses the crowd. “If you don’t stop these songs and [Palestinian] nationalistic songs we will have to disperse you using force and we won’t let the funeral take place,” the officer says.
Abu Aqleh’s coffin left the hospital grounds by vehicle and arrived at a Jerusalem church for her funeral.
The 51-year-old reporter was shot in the head on Wednesday morning in the West Bank city of Jenin during what her colleagues at the scene said was a burst of Israeli fire on a small group of journalists covering an expected Israeli military raid.
The Israeli military said its troops shot back after coming under “massive fire” in Jenin and that “there is a possibility, now being looked into, that reporters were hit – possibly by shots fired by Palestinian gunmen”. However, the Israeli military chief, Lt Gen Aviv Kochavi, later appeared to back away from those assertions, saying: “At this stage we cannot determine by whose fire she was harmed and we regret her death.”
Video of the incident showed Abu Aqleh was wearing a helmet and body armor clearly marked “press”. Ali Samodi, a producer for Al Jazeera who was shot in the back, told the Guardian from his hospital bed that contrary to claims made by Israeli officials, there were no gunmen standing near the journalists when they were targeted.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report