No Israeli police to be punished for attacking Abu Akleh funeral

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that an internal probe found evidence of police misconduct, but will not go further.

Israeli police confront with mourners as they carry the casket of slain Al Jazeera veteran journalist Shireen Abu
Israeli police attacked mourners as they carried the coffin of slain veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh [File: Maya Levin/AP]

An Israeli police investigation into the attack by its officers on mourners at the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh has concluded that no one should be punished, despite finding that there had been police misconduct, sources have told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The attack on the pallbearers at the funeral, which almost caused them to drop Abu Akleh’s coffin, was broadcast live around the world, and caused international outrage at what appeared to be an unprovoked assault.

The Police Operations Division presented its conclusions on Wednesday night to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, who had initially ordered the investigation in May.

The probe was supposed to clarify the series of events that led up to the police attacking the mourners. The police chief has refused to release the report’s findings to the public.

Abu Akleh, a longtime television correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic, was killed while covering Israeli army raids in the city of Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank.

Thousands of Palestinians attended her funeral last month. Several policemen charged towards participants and dispersed them with batons.

Israeli forces seized Palestinian flags from mourners and later smashed the window of the hearse carrying Abu Akleh’s body and removed a Palestinian flag.

The Jerusalem Red Crescent said 33 people were injured in the attacks and six were hospitalised. Israeli authorities said six people were arrested after mourners threw “rocks and glass bottles”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by the violence, according to a spokesman.

The European Union said it was “appalled by the violence in the St Joseph Hospital compound and the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession”.

Abu Akleh’s brother, Anton, has previously disputed an Israeli claim that mourners at the funeral had taken the coffin without the family’s consent, calling it “illogical and untrue”.

Haaretz said Abu Akleh’s coffin was initially slated to be carried by a vehicle through the procession, in agreement with police, but was instead carried by pallbearers on foot without permission from the police.

Police sources told Haaretz at the time of the probe’s launch last month that they supported the officers’ conduct at the funeral.

“Obviously the images that emerged were unpleasant and could have been different, but overall the police acted well in a complex and violent incident,” one senior police officer said.

The newspaper said the commander overseeing the event was a lieutenant colonel, despite such a sensitive event usually necessitating the supervision of a senior commander.

Anton Abu Akleh rejected out of hand the police probe into the unrest at his sister’s funeral.

“We don’t care what Israel says or does, everything is clear from the photos. The police are the aggressors,” he said. “They are trying to cover up their actions and mistakes.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies