Israel Police: Officers intervened at reporter’s funeral to prevent ‘mob’ from taking coffin against family’s wishes.
Israeli police said Friday that they charged a group of Palestinians carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh to prevent them from taking the coffin on an “unplanned procession by foot,” against the wishes of the slain journalist’s family.
“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,” an Israel Police statement said.
“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,” it continued. “This went against the wishes of the Abu Akleh family and the security coordinations that had been planned to safeguard the large number of mourners.”
The group refused instructions from Israel Police as well as the Abu Akleh family and an EU diplomat, the statement continued.
“Israeli Police 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,” it added. “During the riot that was instigated by the mob, glass bottles and other objects were thrown, resulting in the injury of both mourners and police officers.”
Several minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle that headed toward the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in Jerusalem’s Walled Old City, where the funeral ceremony proceeded peacefully.
Police said earlier Friday that six suspects were arrested at the scene for violating public order and attacking police officers before and at the beginning of the funeral procession.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “deeply troubled” by the violent scenes, and said American officials remained in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, calling on parties to “maintain calm and avoid any actions that could further escalate tensions.”
Abu Akleh, who had covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades, was shot while reporting on an Israeli raid in Judea and Samaria on Wednesday.
Israel’s government initially suggested Palestinian fire might have been to blame, but officials have also said they could not rule out it was Israeli gunfire that killed her, as the investigation is ongoing.
Palestinian authorities described Abu Akleh’s killing as an assassination by Israeli forces, and have rejected Israeli efforts to conduct a joint probe to determine culpability.