(May 15, 2022 / JNS) The Israel Police announced on Friday that it will launch an investigation into officers’ handling of the Jerusalem funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh earlier in the day, but emphasized that it supports its officers and will not allow them to be scapegoated.
Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist working for Al Jazeera, was shot dead during intense gun battles between the Israel Defense Forces and armed Palestinian terrorists in Jenin on May 11. During her funeral, clashes erupted between funeral participants and police, whose use of riot dispersal methods drew widespread condemnation after footage of the incident emerged online.
According to police, while a “calm and dignified funeral” for Akleh had been coordinated with her family, “Unfortunately, hundreds of rioters began to disrupt public order, even before the funeral began.”
“On Friday, about 300 rioters arrived at Saint Joseph hospital in Jerusalem and prevented the family members from loading the coffin onto the hearse to travel to the cemetery—as had been planned and coordinated with the family in advance,” police said in a statement.
“Instead, the mob threatened the driver of the hearse and then proceeded to carry the coffin on an unplanned procession to the cemetery by foot,” the statement continued.
Police instructed that the coffin be returned to the hearse, but the order was ignored. According to police, the E.U. ambassador and Abu-Akleh’s family both attempted to intervene, but were also ignored.
“Hundreds of individuals gathered outside the French hospital in Sheikh Jarrah and began chanting nationalist incitement,” police said in a statement. “Towards the exit of the casket from the hospital, rioters began throwing stones toward the policemen from the French hospital plaza, and the policemen were forced to act.”
Officers intervened to disperse the mob and prevent them from taking the coffin, “so that the funeral could proceed as planned in accordance with the wishes of the family,” according to the statement.
Abu Akleh’s brother, Tony, told BBC Newshour police had requested that no Palestinian flags be present during the funeral, that no nationalist slogans be chanted and had “wanted to restrict the movements of the funeral in some ways.”
According to his account, “We were trying to leave the hospital and we were faced with many soldiers brutally beating participants.”
“As with any operational incident, and certainly an incident in which police officers were exposed to violence by rioters and in which force was subsequently used by the police, the Israel Police will be looking into the events that ensued during the funeral,” the police statement said.
“Therefore, the Israel Police Commissioner [Yaakov Shabtai], in coordination with the Minister of Public Security [Omar Bar-Lev], has instructed that an investigation be conducted into the incident. The findings of the investigation will be presented to the Commissioner in the coming days,” the statement continued.
Just hours after the announcement, Israeli news outlet Ynet quoted police sources as criticizing what the source described as “many false publications” regarding the incident, “including misinformation and half-truths regarding various occurrences and the activity of Israel Police forces in the area, including false reports of injuries.” These publications, the source said, were part of “ongoing incitement by various hostile elements attempting to instill a false narrative and [present a] distorted reality to the public.”
Police sources told Ynet that the Israel Police would not allow the officers involved to become scapegoats.
“These are officers who protect Israeli civilians with their bodies against terrorism. There is no organization in the state that works under the pressure, workload, complexity and intensity as the police does,” a source told the outlet.
Also on Friday, the United Nations Security Council called for an “immediate, thorough, transparent and fair and impartial investigation” into Akleh’s death, stressing “the need to ensure accountability.”
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