Palestinians honor dead journalist, reject joint investigation

Journalists of different nationalities carry posters with a photo of Abu Akleh at a meeting to condemn his death, in front of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul on May 12, 2022

Thousands of Palestinians on Thursday paid tribute to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh across the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem, a day after she was shot dead during an Israeli army attack.

Israel and the Palestinians have exchanged blame for the murder of Palestinian-American Abu Akleh, 51, a veteran of the Qatar-based network’s Arab service, during clashes in the Jenin refugee camp.

In a sign of Abu Akleh’s stature among Palestinians, she was given what has been described as a full-fledged state memorial in President Mahmud Abbas’ Ramallah compound.

Many held flowers, wreaths and photos of the murdered journalist, who was widely praised for her bravery and professionalism through her coverage of the conflict.

“This crime must not go unpunished,” Abbas said, adding that the AP held Israel “fully responsible” for his death and “rejected” an Israeli proposal for a joint investigation.

On a visit to Tehran, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani blamed “Israeli occupation forces” for the “heinous crime”.

Wrapped in a Palestinian scarf, the bereaved Tariq Ahmed, 45, described the death as a “tragedy for the entire nation”, comparing his grief to that he felt at the funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Another mourner, 45-year-old Hadil Hamdan, said that “Shireen was part of our lives”, adding that “her voice has entered every home and her loss is a wound in our hearts”.

– No joint probe –

As his coffin began its journey to Jerusalem to the sounds of a marching band, crowds chanted slogans demanding an end to Palestinian security cooperation with Israel.

The European Union called for an “independent” investigation, while the United States demanded that the murder be “investigated in a transparent manner”, calls echoed by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

An initial autopsy and forensic examination were carried out in Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, hours after his death.

In a move that is expected to further heighten tensions in the West Bank, Israel on Thursday advanced plans for 4,427 Jewish settler homes.

Settlement monitor Peace Now warned the announcement “deepen the occupation”, while right-wing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the religious nationalist Yamina de Bennett party, hailed a “day of celebration for the settler movement”.

A total of 31 Palestinians and three Israeli Arabs died during the same period, according to an AFP count, among them perpetrators of attacks and those killed by Israeli security forces in operations in the West Bank.

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