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Israeli police beat crowds at funeral of slain Palestinian journalist in Jerusalem

Thousands gathered for the emotionally-charged funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, who witnesses say was killed by Israeli forces’ gunfire in the occupied West Bank this week.

The funeral of a slain Palestinian American journalist descended into chaos Friday after Israeli security forces stormed and beat the crowd carrying her coffin, which was at one point dropped by the pallbearers.

Thousands gathered in Jerusalem for the emotionally-charged funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran Al Jazeera journalist who witnesses say was killed by Israeli forces’ gunfire in the occupied West Bank this week.

Her death prompted an outpouring of grief and global outrage.

Video from the scene Friday showed crowds of chanting mourners attempting to carry the beloved reporter's coffin out of a hospital in east Jerusalem toward a Catholic church.

Dozens of Israeli police could be seen confronting the crowd before moving in, beating some people with batons and causing mourners to run for safety. In the chaos, pallbearers briefly dropped the casket as several loud explosions could be heard.

Israeli security forces confront Palestinian mourners
Israeli security forces confront Palestinian mourners carrying the casket of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh out of a hospital Friday in Jerusalem. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images

In a statement, Israeli police said they arrested six people for allegedly violating public order and attacking officers.

Police accused “hundreds of rioters” of disrupting public order before and during the funeral by chanting nationalist slogans and throwing stones at them.

Police had to “disperse and repel” the crowds as well as make arrests, the statement said, “in order to allow the funeral to take place legally.”

But the police were condemned by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the National Initiative Movement political party, who called their actions a “brutal assault.”

Police later allowed the family to drive the casket to a Catholic church in the Old City, which was packed with mourners, before sealing off the hospital and firing tear gas at scores of protesters inside, according to The Associated Press.

Crowds chanted “We die for Palestine to live” and sang the Palestinian national anthem, a rare mass show of Palestinian nationalism in east Jerusalem — the contested part of the holy city that Israel captured in 1967 and which the Palestinians claim as their capital.

Israel says east Jerusalem is part of its capital and has annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized.

Abu Akleh, 51, was fatally shot Wednesday morning while covering raids in the West Bank for Al Jazeera, with the broadcaster and another reporter who was wounded in the incident blaming Israeli forces.

The veteran Palestinian American journalist had spent a quarter century covering life under Israeli military rule, which is now into its sixth decade.

Mourners carry the coffin of slain veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral at the Mount Zion Cemetery outside Jerusalem's Old City on May 13, 2022.
Mourners carry the coffin during Abu Akleh's funeral at the Mount Zion Cemetery outside Jerusalem's Old City on Friday. Hazem Bader / AFP - Getty Images

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement Friday that its investigation had not been able "to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh."

It outlined two possible scenarios: that she was hit by gunfire from Palestinian militants, or by an IDF solider firing at the Palestinian gunmen.

Reporters who were with Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said there were no clashes or militants in the immediate area when she was killed early Wednesday. All of them were wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as members of the press.

Israel has also called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round. The Palestinian Authority has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and take the case to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.

Police went to Abu Akleh’s family home in Jerusalem the day she was killed and have shown up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags. Tensions were running high ahead of the funeral.

Palestinians from in and around Jenin have carried out a series of deadly attacks inside Israel in recent weeks, and Israel has launched near daily arrest raids in the area, often igniting gunbattles with militants.