Israeli police to investigate ‘events’ surrounding Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral, says minister

“Unfortunately, during the funeral, serious violent events occurred on the part of the participants that worsened the situation at the site,” Israeli Minister of Public Security Omer Bar-Lev said in a statement to CNN.

“The investigation team appointed by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and headed by Brigadier General Anna Ben Mordechai – an experienced commander who knows the area in which the funeral took place – will carry out a comprehensive investigation into what happened during the funeral on the day next day to learn lessons from the incident. These lessons will be presented to the police commissioner and then to me,” he added.

Israeli police came under fire after Friday’s procession, in which television footage showed police officers attacking the bereaved with batons, forcibly toppling Palestinian flags and arresting individuals carrying the flag. A video released by Israeli police shows officers tearing Palestinian flags from the hearse carrying Abu Akleh’s coffin.

The Jerusalem Magistrates 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 individuals carrying a flag during the Abu Akleh procession.

“Flying the Palestinian flag does not constitute an offense under Israeli law,” Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi told CNN on Friday.

“When Omer Bar-Lev was appointed Israel’s 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 directly opposes on the orders of the minister… What we see is a phobia of the Palestinian flag”, he added.

When asked by CNN to clarify the reason for the removal of Palestinian flags and the arrest of individuals carrying the flag, the Israeli police force responded with a statement, which was also publicly shared on its Twitter account.

Thousands mourn dead journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as Palestinians demand responsibility

“Israel police prepared yesterday to facilitate a calm and dignified funeral for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and coordinated the funeral arrangements with her family. Unfortunately, hundreds of protesters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police,” the statement read.

“Israel Police supports its officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident,” he added.

On Friday, mourners carried Abu Akleh’s coffin out of St. Joseph in East Jerusalem, where his body remained until burial, but they encountered strong resistance from the Israeli police, who forced them to transport the body by car. A flash bomb and tear gas were fired, according to CNN reporters.

The 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist from Al Jazeera was a prominent voice across the Arab world, conveying what many said was “the voice of Palestinian suffering” and its “aspirations for freedom”.

Shireen Abu Akleh's niece, Lareen, 19, at her aunt's funeral procession in Jerusalem.  Her poster says: "Shireen Abu Akleh, an icon of journalism and freedom of expression".  Lareen is an aspiring journalist.

“She made a huge impact on Palestine and on all people. She left her fingerprint on everyone’s hearts,” Lareen Abu Akleh, Shireen’s niece, 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 journalist.

“Shireen is my daughter. Her parents are dead, but we are all her parents. We are all her family,” Khwais said.

“Two weeks ago she hid me behind my back when clashes broke out at the Damascus Gate and told me, ‘Mom, come here. I’m so worried about you’ and handed me a bottle of water. I loved Shireen. She was the voice of all Palestinians,” she said.

Nafisa Khwais, 63, sits outside Shireen Abu Akleh's home in Ramallah, where the mourners have gathered.

Friday’s events provoked global reactions from several officials who said they were “shocked” by what they saw.

“We are deeply concerned by the images of Israeli police invading the funeral procession of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to put their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. an announcement. post on Twitter on Friday.

A senior State Department official later said that Blinken had spoken with the journalist’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 the loss,” the official said. Blinken also offered the continued support of the State Department team in Jerusalem to his family and highlighted the importance of a free and independent press, the official said.

Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Kåre R. Aas, said in a tweet that he was “shocked at the violent conduct of Israeli police forces during the funeral procession”, adding that “this disproportionate force is inappropriate and unacceptable”.

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