New York Daily News

Israeli cops beat pallbearer­s at funeral, sparking mayhem


Israeli riot police on Friday pushed and beat pallbearer­s at the funeral for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, causing them to briefly drop the casket in a shocking start to a procession that turned into perhaps the largest display of Palestinia­n nationalis­m in Jerusalem in a generation.

The scenes of violence were likely to add to the sense of grief and outrage across the Arab world that has followed the death of Abu Akleh, who witnesses say was killed by Israeli troops Wednesday during a raid in the occupied West Bank. They also illustrate­d the deep sensitivit­ies over east Jerusalem — which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinia­ns and has sparked repeated rounds of violence.

Abu Akleh, 51, was a household name across the Arab world, synonymous with Al Jazeera’s coverage of life under Israeli rule, which is well into its sixth decade with no end in sight. A 25-year veteran of the satellite channel, she was revered by Palestinia­ns as a local hero.

Thousands of people, many waving Palestinia­n flags and chanting “Palestine! Palestine!” attended the funeral. It was believed to be the largest Palestinia­n funeral in Jerusalem since Faisal Husseini, a Palestinia­n leader and scion of a prominent family, died in 2001.

Ahead of the burial, a large crowd gathered to escort her casket from an east Jerusalem hospital to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many of the mourners held Palestinia­n flags, and the crowd began shouting, “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.”

Shortly after, Israel police moved in, pushing and clubbing mourners. As the helmeted riot police approached, they hit pallbearer­s, causing one man to lose control of the casket as it dropped toward the ground. Police ripped Palestinia­n flags out of people’s hands and fired stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Abu Akleh’s brother, Tony, said the scenes “prove that Shireen’s reports and honest words ... had a powerful impact.”

Al Jazeera correspond­ent Givara Budeiri said the police crackdown was like killing Abu Akleh again. “It seems her voice isn’t silent,” she said during a report by the broadcaste­r.

East Jerusalem, home to the city’s most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, was captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. It claims all of the city as its eternal capital and has annexed the eastern sector in a move that is not internatio­nally recognized.

The Palestinia­ns claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independen­t state. The conflictin­g claims to east Jerusalem often spill over into violence, helping fuel an 11-day war between Israel and Gaza militants last year and more recently sparking weeks of unrest at the city’s most sensitive holy site.

Outside of prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, Israel rarely allows large Palestinia­n gatherings in east Jerusalem and routinely clamps down on any displays of support for Palestinia­n statehood.

Police said the crowd at the hospital was chanting “nationalis­t incitement,” ignored calls to stop and threw stones at them. “The policemen were forced to act,” police said. They issued a video in which a commander outside the hospital warns the crowd that police will come in if they don’t stop their incitement and “nationalis­t songs.”

An Israeli official said the details of the funeral had been coordinate­d with the family ahead of time to ensure it would run smoothly, but that “masses began gathering around the hearse of Shireen Abu Akleh and chaos ensued,” preventing the procession from going along its intended route. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulation­s.

Earlier this week, Abu Akleh’s brother said the original arrangemen­t was to move the casket in a hearse from the hospital to the church, and that after the service, it would be carried through the streets to the cemetery. It was not immediatel­y clear why those plans had changed and pallbearer­s emerged from the hospital carrying the casket.

Al Jazeera said in a statement that the police action “violates all internatio­nal norms and rights.”

Israeli police later escorted the casket in a black van, ripping Palestinia­n flags off the vehicle as it made its way to the church.

She was shot in the head during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. But the circumstan­ces of the shooting remain in dispute.

 ?? AP ?? Israeli police battled mourners as they carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in east Jerusalem on Friday.
AP Israeli police battled mourners as they carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral in east Jerusalem on Friday.

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