Israeli police say they will carry out an investigation “into the events followed during the funeral” procession of the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Fridays.
“Unfortunately, during the funeral, there were serious violent events on the part of the participants that worsened the situation on the ground,” Israeli Minister of Public Security Omer Bar-Lev said in a statement on CNN.
“The investigation team appointed by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and led by Brigadier General Anna Ben Mordechai – an experienced commander familiar with the area where the funeral took place – will carry out a thorough investigation into what happened during the funeral. the next day, in order to learn lessons from the accident. These lessons will be presented to the commissioner and then to me “, he added.
Israeli police were criticized after Friday’s procession in which TV shots showed officers hitting mourners with batons, forcibly knocking down Palestinian flags and arresting people carrying the flag. A video released by Israeli police shows officers snatching Palestinian flags from the hearse carrying Abu Akleh’s coffin.
The Jerusalem Judiciary Court ruled in September 2021 that flying the Palestinian flag is not a criminal offense in Israel. However, CNN witnessed the arrest of at least two people carrying a flag during the Abu Akleh procession.
“Waving the Palestinian flag is not a crime under Israeli law,” Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi told CNN on Friday.
“When Omer Bar-Lev was appointed Israeli Minister of Public Security, he issued a directive limiting the confiscation of Palestinian flags from protesters to cases where there is an immediate risk of disturbing the peace. But what the police are doing is directly opposed to the minister’s orders… What we see is the flag phobia of the Palestinian flag, ”he added.
When CNN asked to clarify the reason for the shooting down of Palestinian flags and the arrest of people carrying the flag, the Israeli police force responded with a statement, which was also shared publicly on his Twitter account.
“Yesterday, the Israeli police prepared to facilitate a calm and dignified funeral for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and coordinated the organization of the funeral with her family. Unfortunately, hundreds of rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police, “she said in the statement.
“The Israeli police support their police officers, but as a professional organization seeking to learn and improve, they will also draw lessons from the incident,” he added.
On Friday, mourners carried Abu Akleh’s coffin out of East Jerusalem’s St. Joseph’s Hospital, where his body remained until burial, but met with strong resistance from Israeli police which forced them to carry the body by car. According to CNN reporters, a flash bomb and tear gas were dropped.
Al Jazeera’s 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist has been a prominent voice in the Arab world, delivering what many have said to be “the voice of Palestinian suffering” and their “aspirations for freedom”.
“It had a huge impact on Palestine and on all people. She left her imprint on everyone’s heart, ”Lareen Abu Akleh, Shireen’s granddaughter, told CNN.
Nafisa Khwais, a Palestinian woman who considered herself a mother figure to Shireen, told CNN she spent all night at the funeral home where people came to mourn the veteran reporter.
“Shireen is my daughter. Her parents are dead, but we are all her parents. We are all her family, ”Khwais said.
“Two weeks ago, he hid me behind my back when the fighting broke out at the Damascus Gate, and he said to me: ‘Mother, come here. I’m so worried about you and she handed me a bottle of water. I loved Shireen. It was the voice of all Palestinians, ”she said.
Friday’s events sparked global reactions from various officials who said they were “shocked” by what they had seen.
“We were deeply disturbed by the images of Israeli police intruding on the funeral procession of American Palestinian Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to rest their loved ones in a dignified and unhindered way, “US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Twitter post on Friday.
A senior State Department official later said Blinken had spoken to the reporter’s family and expressed his condolences on his way to an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin, Germany.
Blinken offered “his deepest condolences for their loss,” the official said. Blinken also offered continued support from the State Department team in Jerusalem to their family and noted the importance of a free and independent press, the official said.
The Norwegian ambassador to Israel, Kåre R. Aas, said in a tweet that he was “shocked by the violent conduct of the Israeli police forces during the funeral procession”, adding that “such disproportionate force is inappropriate and unacceptable”.