Israel Police use stun grenades, beat mourners in procession for slain journalist : NPR

Israeli police fought to block a funeral march for Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh just outside Jerusalem’s Old City.



STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The funeral of a Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, took place today just outside the Old City of Jerusalem. She was shot on Wednesday while covering violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces. His funeral, which began earlier in the day, began in chaos, with Israeli police attacking the pallbearers of his coffin. NPR’s Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem. Hi Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Where are you? And what did you see?

ESTRIN: Right now I’m in a very peaceful place, right at the entrance to the Greek Orthodox cemetery where Shireen Abu Akleh was buried. But earlier today there were some pretty ugly pictures from the hospital where his body was being held. The Palestinians wanted to carry his body in a procession down a main road. It’s tradition, carry the body to be buried. Israeli police arranged for his body to be transported to the cemetery in a car. And so there was a disagreement. And the forces charged the carriers. Special police forces beat people in the crowd. At one point, a policeman called on the crowd to stop chanting, I quote, “nationalist songs”. And the police fired stun grenades into the crowd. So there were some scenes of chaos, with police tearing Palestinian flags from some marchers here and there. But then there were other scenes of thousands in crowds marching through the Old City, the walled Old City of Jerusalem, and towards this cemetery where she was buried. When she was laid to rest and buried, churches of different denominations rang their bells in a sort of demonstration of the unity of the Christian denomination.

INSKEEP: Does this chaos that you have described reflect the broader attitude and the broader tension in Jerusalem today?

ESTRIN: Oh, yes. I mean, there’s still a big disagreement about who shot Shireen Abu Akleh.

(SOUND EXTRACTION OF CHURCH BELL RINGING)

ESTRIN: The Israeli army – and now you can hear one of those church bells ringing right next to the cemetery.

INSKEEP: Right.

ESTRIN: But earlier today the IDF completed its initial investigation into who shot Shireen Abu Akleh. The army says it narrowed it down to two possibilities, a Palestinian gunman shooting at an Israeli army vehicle and an Israeli soldier shooting the gunman from – with his rifle from inside that Israeli army vehicle. army. The army returned to the scene of the clash a few days ago to reconstruct what happened, to collect evidence. It turned into another shootout with Palestinians in a separate location. An Israeli officer was killed in another shootout and a dozen Palestinians were injured. But regarding who killed Abu Akleh, the army has the gun. The bullet fired would have a telltale sign of which rifle, whether Israeli military or not. This bullet belongs to the Palestinian Authority.

INSKEEP: And is the Palestinian Authority willing to cooperate with the investigation?

ESTRIN: Well, Palestinian officials conducted their own investigation which is ongoing. But they refuse Israeli demands to return the ball. Israel even requests a joint examination of the bullet with an American official present because Abu Akleh was an American citizen. I met the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot – he was returning from the funeral today – and asked him what kind of investigation the Palestinian Authority would accept. He said they would only agree to hand over the evidence to the International Criminal Court. They don’t trust Israel.

INSKEEP: We’re listening to NPR’s Daniel Estrin. He is in Jerusalem. One of the church bells can be heard in the background on the day of the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, an American-Palestinian journalist. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: Thank you.

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