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Some policemen criticize force after violence at journalist’s funeral in Jerusalem

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Some officials in the Israeli police criticized the use of force because of it violent interference At Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akle’s funeral on Friday, she beat mourners and fired stun grenades into the crowd, while others accused Public Security Minister Omar Barlev of not supporting the officers and putting pressure on police chief Yaqoub Shabtai to open an investigation.

Abu Okla, 51, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers Wednesday morning while covering clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Scenes of Israeli police using force against Palestinians who carried her coffin outside a Jerusalem hospital and nearly toppled it drew widespread condemnation on Friday, with the White House saying it was “extremely disturbing”, while the European Union said it was “appalling”.

The police said in a later statement that they had intervened because the rioters had taken her coffin in the hospital against the wishes of her family, and had prevented her from being loaded onto a niche, as previously agreed, for that part of the funeral procession. But Abu Okla’s brother said the family and mourners had hoped for a “small procession” but were “bombed” by officers as they left the hospital.

after violence and international condemnation From Israel, Amr Shabtai internal investigation of events.

On Saturday evening, Channel 12 quoted an unnamed police source as saying: “The Jerusalem District Police should have realized that this event should have been allowed to happen, especially because of its repercussions and international aspects.”

The source added that “even if Palestinian flags were waved, even if anti-Israel statements were heard, and even if many stones were thrown, the officers had to think carefully before ordering the officers to rush with batons and reach the coffin carriers.”

But other senior police officials, quoted by Hebrew media, argued on Saturday that the investigation was the result of political pressure from Bar-Lev.

“If it had been up to the police, the investigation would have never been opened,” they told the Ynet news site, accusing the minister of not supporting the police.

Israeli police confront mourners as they carry the coffin of veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shirin Abu Akleh during her funeral in East Jerusalem, Friday, May 13, 2022 (AP Photo/Maya Levin)

According to the Channel 13 report, there is “a lot of anger” against Bar-Lev in the police force, with some officials insisting that he “forced” Shabtai to open an investigation.

Senior police officials said efforts have been made to allow a peaceful and respectful funeral, including coordinating logistics for the event with Family of the deceased reporter.

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Palestinian mourners wave national flags as they carry the coffin of slain Al Jazeera journalist Sherine Abu Akleh, during her funeral procession outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, May 13, 2022 (Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP)

On the other hand, officials said, Saturday, that “hundreds of rioters tried to interfere in the ceremonies and harm the police officers.”

They added, “As in any operational incident, especially one that saw officers subjected to violence by rioters and forced to resort to force, the Israeli police will investigate the incident.”

Officials also pledged not to allow officers to “be scapegoats in the most complex security situation we have seen in the past few years.”

“These are officers who sacrifice their safety to protect Israeli citizens from terrorism,” they said.

Also on Saturday, Kan public radio reported that despite ordering an investigation, Shabtai indicated that no disciplinary steps would be taken against any officers involved.

A video clip released by the Israeli police showed at least one Palestinian throwing something at Israeli officers before the dispersal began. The footage then showed Palestinians throwing objects at the police after the officers moved to disperse the crowd.

Bar-Lev announced an investigation into the incident earlier Saturday, saying it was important to “draw conclusions” from police behavior during the ceremony.

The results will be presented to officials in the coming days, according to the minister.

“The Israel Police supports its officers, but as a professional organization that strives to learn and improve, it will draw lessons from the incident as well,” a police statement read.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (left) and Public Security Minister Omar Bar-Lev at the Israel Police National Headquarters in Jerusalem, May 1, 2022 (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

In response to the photos from the funeral, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was “extremely disturbing.”

US President Joe Biden said he did not know the details surrounding the incident but indicated that it “must be investigated”.

The European Union said it was “horrified”.

Clashes erupted in St. Joseph Hospital after Palestinians tried to move Abu Akle’s coffin on foot and waved several Palestinian flags to the Old City.

Police had specified that the procession would begin at the Jaffa Gate, less than two miles away.

Police ordered the crowd to return the coffin to the body, “but the mob refused,” police said. “The police intervened to disperse the mob and prevent them from taking the coffin, so that the funeral could take place as planned according to the family’s wish.”

The crowd seized the coffin, prompting the Palestinians to gather in the hospital yard to cheer, carrying her coffin forward.

After a short confrontation, the police officers rushed into the crowd, beat the mourners and fired stun grenades. Abu Uqla’s coffin nearly fell to the ground during the clash.

Then the body of Abu Akleh was carried in a carriage, surrounded by an escort of the police, to the Greek Royal Chapel near the Jaffa Gate.

According to a video clip, the officers tore Palestinian flags from the truck before taking it to the old campus.

Israeli police later said six people had been arrested after rioting “which included stone-throwing”.

In an interview with the BBC on Friday, Abu Oqla’s brother Tony appeared to question the Israeli police’s version of events, saying the family and mourners had hoped for a “small procession” but were “bombed” by officers as they left the hospital.

“It is really sad to see this happen at a funeral. We were hoping for a little procession from the hospital to the church and then to the cemetery.” But unfortunately, the moment we started getting out of the hospital, many Israeli policemen bombed us, and for nothing. We were just leaving the hospital for church. We were shocked to see that they had just started hitting people and throwing stun grenades and tear gas. All this – we can not explain it. This happened without any explanation.”

Demonstrators hold candles and a photo of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed while covering clashes between IDF forces and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF raid in Jenin, in Haifa, Israel, May 11, 2022 (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Abu Akleh was one of the most beloved Palestinian journalists working in the Arab media. As a longtime reporter for the Arabia Network, she was also considered by many to be a leading role model for women in a field dominated by men.

On Saturday, the Palestinian Authority said that while international bodies could “take part” in the investigation into her murder, Israel would not be allowed to join the investigation.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “executing” Abu Uqla. Israeli officials said it was too early to say who fired the bullet that killed her.

In the meantime Report Friday, the Israeli military said it had not yet been able to determine who fired the fatal shot. But it said it narrowed the possibilities down to two scenarios – one involving a Palestinian random shooting incident, and the other a possible Israeli sniper errant fire.

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