Before the funeral of a Palestinian American journalist, Israeli police beat up mourners.
Hundreds of people were there to watch the start of Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral procession, but the people carrying her coffin were attacked by riot police.
Shireen Abu Akleh was a well-known Palestinian American journalist and one of the best people to write about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Her death on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank made her one of the most well-known people to die in the conflict recently. Palestinian witnesses and officials said that Israeli soldiers shot Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, who was a well-known TV reporter for Al Jazeera for many years. However, Israeli officials said that she could have been hit by either Palestinian or Israeli fire.
Then, on Friday in Jerusalem, there was more violence at her funeral.
Early that afternoon, as thousands of people gathered in East Jerusalem for one of the biggest Palestinian funerals in recent memory, a group of Israeli riot police attacked a group of mourners carrying Ms. Abu Akleh’s coffin, almost making them drop it.
Later, the Israeli police said that they had stepped in because the mourners, who wanted to walk the coffin to the funeral, wouldn’t put it in a hearse, even though that was what Ms. Abu Akleh’s family had agreed to.
But the police action shocked and angered people in Israel and around the world, and the attack on the mourners was seen as wrong no matter what the reason was.
It was the most recent and maybe most shocking attack in a time when Israel and the occupied territories have been the most violent they have been in years without being at war.
The attack happened outside of a hospital in East Jerusalem, where Ms. Abu Akleh’s body had been kept since another memorial on Thursday and where many people had gathered to watch the start of her funeral procession.
When Palestinians started waving Palestinian flags and chanting nationalist slogans, tensions rose between them and Israeli police officers. Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, a senior foreign diplomat who saw the fight, said that things got worse when the police wouldn’t let mourners carry the coffin on their shoulders to the church.
Mr. Kühn von Burgsdorff said that this led to a standoff between mourners, who wouldn’t let the hearse get close to the hospital, and the police, who wouldn’t let them leave with the coffin.
At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki called video footage of the fight “deeply disturbing” and said, “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.”
One of the first Arabs to serve as an Israeli minister, Esawi Frej, said on Twitter that the police had “desecrated” Ms. Abu Akleh’s memory and funeral, causing “an unnecessary flare-up.” He also said, “The police had no respect for the people who were there to mourn, and they had no idea that their job is to keep order, not to break it.”
As the standoff got worse, the European Union’s representative to the Palestinians, Mr. Kühn von Burgsdorff, tried to bring the police and the mourners together, he said. Anton, Ms. Abu Akleh’s brother, also asked the mourners to put the coffin in the hearse, because he knew there was no way to get the police to change their minds.
But neither side gave up. The mourners held on to the body and waved Palestinian flags even though the police told them to stop. East Jerusalem is mostly inhabited by Palestinians, and most of the world sees it as occupied territory. However, Israel has annexed the area, considers it part of its capital, and often stops Palestinians from showing their nationalism there.
After telling the crowd to stop chanting, which they did not do, and after three bottles were thrown at the police, video showed that the police suddenly rushed toward the mourners.
The police swung their batons. They kicked and hit the men carrying the coffin, making them move backward. Video showed that they knocked down a man who had backed into the group carrying the coffin and then kicked him while he was on the ground.
As they were getting hit, the people carrying the coffin lost control of one end for a moment, and it fell to the ground quickly. Officers threw what looked like stun and smoke grenades, and mourners threw things like what looked like a stick.
The event was supposed to be a moment of relief, but it turned into chaos instead, adding to the shame and pain that Ms. Abu Akleh’s death had brought to many Palestinians.
Ms. Abu Akleh was shot and killed early Wednesday morning during an Israeli raid on Jenin. Jenin is a city in the northern West Bank where many of the people who killed Israelis in recent attacks lived. Jenin has been the focus of a recent Israeli campaign to stop terrorism.
In a report that came out Friday night, the public prosecutor for the Palestinian Authority said that Ms. Abu Akleh had been shot on purpose by Israeli forces. The prosecutors said their conclusions were based on an autopsy that showed she was shot in the head, bullet holes in a tree near where she died, and interviews with witnesses, including another Al Jazeera journalist who was shot in the back.
Just hours before, the Israeli Army had released its own preliminary findings about her death. They said that it was “not possible to say for sure where the gunfire came from that hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”
But for the first time, the Israeli Army also used the report to explain how Israeli forces might have hit Ms. Abu Akleh.
The Israeli Army said that it would probably have to look at the bullet that killed Ms. Abu Akleh to know for sure what happened. The bullet is in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, which runs the part of the West Bank where the raid happened. Israel has asked to look at the bullet in an Israeli lab, but the Palestinian Authority has refused.
The fight on Friday was the end of an unusually tense and chaotic two months. During that time, 19 Israelis and foreigners were killed in five separate Arab attacks in Israel, and more than 30 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank, mostly in counter raids by the Israeli Army. There was also violence at Jerusalem’s holiest site, rocket fire from Gaza, and the first time in a generation that Ramadan, Passover, and Easter all happened at the same time.
Ms. Abu Akleh had been writing about conflict for more than 20 years. She first became known as a journalist during the second intifada, a Palestinian uprising that shook Israel and the occupied territories from 2000 to 2005.
She studied to be an architect at first, but in the end, she chose journalism because she wanted to be “close to the people,” as she said in a short clip that Al Jazeera shared soon after she was killed on Wednesday. “It might not be easy to change the way things are, but at least I was able to let the world hear what they had to say.”
In an interview with the Palestinian TV station An-Najah NBC in 2017, she was asked if she ever worried about being shot.
“We don’t kill ourselves,” she told him. “We go and try to figure out where we can stand and how to protect the team with me before I think about how I’m going to go up on the screen and what I’m going to say.”
After the attack on the mourners, her coffin was put in a hearse and driven to an entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinians had crowded into the alleys that led to the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin, where her funeral was held.