Shireen Abu Akleh: Palestinians bid farewell to slain journalist

The Al Jazeera reporter’s body was taken from Ramallah to Jerusalem on Thursday, after she was killed by Israeli forces.

Al Jazeera Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
Shireen Abu Akleh was killed while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin [Al Jazeera via AP Photo]

Occupied East Jerusalem – Israeli forces forcibly prevented a funeral march for Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera journalist who was killed by Israeli forces this week while reporting in the occupied West Bank, by attacking mourners carrying her casket outside of a hospital in her hometown of Jerusalem.

Israeli forces hit mourners holding the casket with batons, almost causing it to drop, before eventually allowing it to be moved in a hearse.

Friday’s events were expected to begin with a procession from the St Louis French Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, where Abu Akleh’s body remained overnight, to the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, where a funeral service is being held at the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin.

Abu Akleh, who was killed at the age of 51, will then be buried next to her parents at the nearby Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery.

Israeli police closed roads leading to the hospital in Sheikh Jarrah at noon on Friday, as Palestinians began to gather ahead of the procession. Earlier on Friday, police also attempted to prevent Palestinians from placing posters of Abu Akleh outside the church.

Thousands are expected to turn out for the funeral of the veteran reporter, whose killing has sparked outrage among Palestinians, raising fears of an increase in tensions in Jerusalem, after weeks of Israeli army raids at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which have injured hundreds of Palestinians.

Israeli police raided Abu Akleh’s family home on Thursday, forcibly removing the Palestinian flag from the residence.

Anton Abu Akleh, Shireen’s brother, was also summoned by Israeli police on Thursday evening. According to Israeli media reports, police warned him they would disperse the funeral proceedings if there was an “escalation”.

Separately on Friday, Israeli forces conducted a raid at dawn in Jenin, injuring at least 13 Palestinians, including two in difficult condition, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Local media said Israeli forces shelled parts of a wanted Palestinian’s home during a several hour siege before arresting him.

The Israeli army said one of its ‘Yamam’ special unit soldiers has been seriously injured during armed confrontations with Palestinian fighters.

Three-day funeral procession

Abu Akleh’s killing has sent shockwaves throughout the Arab world and led to an outpouring of emotion across the West Bank and Gaza.

The reporter was honoured in several Palestinian cities – from Jenin in the northern West Bank, where she was killed on Wednesday, to Jerusalem, in a lengthy procession.

Al Jazeera’s Palestine bureau chief, Walid al-Omari, described Abu Akleh’s three-day funeral procession as “one of the longest in Palestinian history”.

Marches were held for Abu Akleh in Jenin on Wednesday, and in Nablus, where doctors conducted an autopsy on her body. It was then brought to Ramallah, where a memorial service was held for her at the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) presidential compound on Thursday, with thousands in attendance.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at the service, rejecting a potential Israeli investigation into her death, and saying that the Palestinians would take the case to the International Criminal Court.

Shireen Abu Akleh
Palestinian children carry candles and pictures of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, to condemn her killing, in front of the office of Al Jazeera network, in Gaza City [Adel Hana/AP Photo]

Multiple witnesses said Israeli forces killed Abu Akleh, and video shows that shots continued to be fired when fellow journalists attempted to help her.

Israel has backtracked from an earlier position which emphasised the presence of Palestinian fighters in Jenin, and raised the possibility that they had killed Abu Akleh. The Israeli military is now investigating whether one of its soldiers shot the journalist.

Abu Akleh had been frequenting Jenin as part of her work to cover an ongoing Israeli campaign to suppress growing Palestinian armed resistance in the city’s refugee camp.

A widely respected journalist for Al Jazeera’s Arabic language television station, Abu Akleh joined the network in 1997, only a year after its launch.

Friends and colleagues described Abu Akleh as a brave and kind reporter with an “infectious laugh” who gave voice to the struggles of Palestinians over a career spanning several decades.

Source: Al Jazeera