Israel police insisted Saturday they only charged into the funeral procession of slain American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh because her coffin was being stolen by a violent mob.
“The Israel Police prepared yesterday to facilitate a calm and dignified funeral for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and had coordinated the funeral arrangements with her family. Unfortunately, hundreds of rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police, ”Israel police tweeted.
In a series of earlier tweets Friday, Israeli cops also said the rioters were so out of control that they even suspected the driver of Akleh’s hearse before trying to grab the coffin.
Shocking video images show Israeli authorities rushing into the Jerusalem crowd wielding batons and subsequently attacking pallbearers – nearly causing Abu Akleh’s coffin to fall to the ground.
“On Friday, about 300 rioters arrived at Saint Joseph hospital in Jerusalem and prevented the family members from loading the coffin onto the hearse to travel to the cemetery – as it had been planned and coordinated with the family,” tweeted Israeli cops.
“Instead, the mob arrested the driver of the hearse and then proceeded to carry the coffin on an unplanned procession to the cemetery by foot. This went against the wishes of the Abu-Akleh family and the security coordination’s that had been planned to safeguard the large number of mourners
“The Israel Police instructed that the coffin be returned to the hearse, as did the [European Union] ambassador and Shireen Abu-Akleh’s own family, but the mob refused. Israeli Police intervened to disperse the mob and prevent them from taking the coffin, so that the funeral could proceed as planned in accordance with the wishes of the family.
“During the riot that was instigated by the mob, glass bottles and other objects were thrown, resulting in the, injury of both mourners and police officers.”
President Joe Biden has demanded an investigation of the baton-wielding Israeli police who charged into the procession – with the departure of White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the incident “deeply disturbing.”
The incident had occurred just before a closed-door meeting at the White House between Biden and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
Abu Akleh, 51, was fatally shot in the head Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the northern town of Jenin in the West Bank. She was descended from a Palestinian Christian family and had worked for the Qatar-based news channel since 1997.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and for the PA to hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for forensic analysis to determine who fired it. The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court.