JERUSALEM – Israeli police on Saturday decided to investigate the behavior of their officers who attacked the funeral of a slain Al Jazeera journalist, leaving a brief casket of mourners during a ceremony in Jerusalem.
The tragic scene of the funeral, and the death of the 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist, has drawn worldwide condemnation and calls for an investigation, including by the United States and the United Nations.
In a statement on Saturday, Israeli police said their commissioner had ordered an investigation that would be completed in the coming days. “The Israeli police support its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also learn from the incident,” the statement said.
Police say they used force because hundreds of “rioters tried to sabotage the event and harm police.”
The attack on the funeral has added to the sense of grief and anger that followed the death of Abu Akleh, a veteran journalist and a family name across the Arab world. They also paint a picture of deep sensitivities over East Jerusalem – a claim both Israel and the Palestinians claim and has repeatedly fueled violence.
Before the burial, a large crowd gathered to take his casket from a hospital in East Jerusalem to a Catholic church in the nearby Old City. Many mourners held Palestinian flags, and the crowd shouted: “We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, Shirin.”
Shortly afterwards, Israeli police pushed the mourners and entered the club. As the helmet-clad rioters approached the police, they hit the palbears, causing one person to lose control as the casket fell to the ground. Police tore down Palestinian flags and hurled grenades to disperse the crowd.
On Friday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the U.S. administration had “trouble seeing the image of Israeli police intrusion at the funeral of Abu Akleh, who was also an American citizen.” “Every family deserves to give their loved ones a dignified and uninterrupted rest,” he tweeted.
A unanimous condemnation came from the UN Security Council on Friday, which issued a rare statement calling for an “immediate, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into his death.”
Towards the end of Friday, the Palestinian public prosecutor said that preliminary investigations showed that Abu Akleh had been killed by deliberate gunfire from Israeli troops. The prosecutor said the investigation would continue. The Israeli military said Friday that he had been killed during a shootout with Palestinian militants and could not determine the source of the gunfire.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and the transfer of the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the deadly rounds. The PA declined, saying it would conduct its own investigation and send the findings to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.
PA and Al Jazeera, which have long had strained relations with Israel, have accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh. Israel denies the allegations.
Abu Akleh was a member of the small Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Palestinian Christians and Muslims marched side by side in a demonstration of unity on Friday.
He was shot in the head during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank town of Jenin on Wednesday morning.
Contributed by Fares Akram, an Associated Press writer in Hamilton, Ontario.