‘Take up the rifle’ — Calls for violence as mourners clash with police at slain journalist’s funeral

Al Jazeera journalist laid to rest in Jerusalem, as crowd of some 10,000 push past police barriers, many waving Palestinian flags.

By World Israel News Staff

Israeli security forces and mourners clashed during the funeral of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday afternoon in eastern Jerusalem, with several reportedly arrested.

Scores of mourners chanted nationalistic slogans and called for violence, waved Palestinian flags, and threw rocks and physically clashed with security forces, while others ripped down Israeli flags along the funeral procession’s route through Jerusalem.

Scenes broadcast on Al Jazeera and Palestinian TV showed Israeli police forcibly removing Palestinian flags and attempting to push back large crowds swarming Abu Akleh’s coffin, as it was carried into the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in eastern Jerusalem.

At one point, as mourners and police officers struggled, Abu Nakleh’s casket nearly plummeted to the ground.

Israeli police said in a statement that they had met with the late journalist’s family before the funeral, in order to ensure that the event would be held “respectfully” and nonviolently.

“Unfortunately, hundreds of people cynically exploited the funeral in order to disrupt public order, even before it began,” the police said.

“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,” the statement added.

During the service inside of the church, mourners chanted, “Let the olive branch fall and take up the rifle.”

The line from a well-known Yasser Arafat speech encourages violence, rather than peaceful or diplomatic advocacy.

At least 10,000 people took to the streets of Jerusalem to observe or participate in the funeral procession, which saw Abu Nakleh’s coffin carried from the church to the Mount Zion Christian cemetery, where she was laid to rest.

Footage from the scene showed thousands pushing past police barriers and a general closure of the Old City, with some tearing down Israeli flags near Jaffa Gate.