On Friday, thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral of Al Jazeera TV journalist, who was shot in the head on Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory by Israel since 1967.
When the journalist’s coffin left St. Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian sector of the city also occupied by Israel, the police entered the premises of the establishment and charged a crowd waving Palestinian flags, hitting Palestinians and pallbearers with batons of the coffin that nearly fell to the ground, according to footage that made the rounds on social media.
On Monday, during a press conference at St. Joseph’s Hospital, the apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, denounced “the invasion of the Israeli police and their disproportionate use of force”.
The police “attacked the crowd, beating people with truncheons, throwing tear gas canisters and firing rubber bullets”, he charged.
– No songs, no flags –
The Israeli forces have “disrespected the Church, the health facility and the memory of the dead”, he added.
The hospital belongs to the French congregation of the Sisters of Saint-Joseph-de-l’Apparition, which has been present on this land for almost 200 years.
Police announced the opening of an investigation, saying the officers had been “driven to use force in the face of rioters” among the funeral procession.
She also accused the crowd of having prevented the transport of the coffin in a hearse, “as agreed with the family”.
But the family of Shireen Abu Akleh, who also held US citizenship, rejected this version of events.
His brother, Antoun Abu Akleh, told the same press conference at the hospital that the police stopped him the day before the funeral to tell him that they would oppose any “Palestinian (nationalist) song or flag ” during the procession. Israel regards the entire city of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible” capital.
When the family arrived at the hospital on Friday, the police appeared ready to charge, he said, pointing out that “roads had been blocked and (riot police) deployed”.
Lina Abu Akleh, a niece of the journalist, said a policeman ‘threatened’ to ‘beat’ her and she had to hide inside the hospital when Israeli forces started throwing tear gas canisters .
Father Luc Pareydt, adviser for religious affairs at the French Consulate General in Jerusalem, told AFP that he had been seized by how “calm and solemn” the procession was before the police intervened.
– “Completely unjustified” –
The director of Saint-Joseph hospital, Jamil Koussa, told AFP that he had pleaded with the police on Friday to let the procession “take place peacefully”.
Police then warned that if mourners sang Palestinian national “songs” or waved flags, the procession would be blocked, he said.
A doctor was injured by a rubber bullet during the police charge, he said. The Israeli reaction was “completely unjustified”.
The crowd was then able to accompany the coffin to a church in the Old City where a mass was celebrated, then to the cemetery.
The murder” of the 51-year-old journalist was unanimously condemned by the UN Security Council, which called for “a transparent and impartial investigation”.
The Palestinian Authority, Qatar’s Al Jazeera television and the Qatari government accused the Israeli army of killing the journalist.
Israel, after claiming that she had “probably” succumbed to Palestinian fire, then said it did not rule out that the bullet was fired by its soldiers.