OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Thousands of people packed Occupied Jerusalem’s tense Old City on Friday for the burial of veteran Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, after Israeli police stormed the start of the funeral procession.
Israel and the Palestinians have traded blame over the fatal shooting of the Palestinian-American on Wednesday during an Israeli raid in the flashpoint city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
An Israeli officer was killed during a fresh shootout with Palestinian gunmen near Jenin on Friday.
The Israeli army said an interim investigation could not determine who fired the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, noting that stray Palestinian gunfire or Israeli sniper fire aimed at militants were both possible causes.
Al Jazeera has said Israel killed her “deliberately” and “in cold blood.”
Abu Akleh, a Christian, was a hugely revered Palestinian reporter and her funeral in her native Jerusalem drew massive crowds.
As her body left St. Joseph’s hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli police stormed the crowds who were hoisting Palestinian flags.
The Jewish state forbids public displays of Palestinian flags and routinely intervenes against those who parade them at demonstrations or protests.
TV images showed Abu Akleh’s coffin nearly falling to the ground as Israeli police grabbed the flags from the crowd around the procession outside the hospital.
Police said they had warned the crowd to stop “nationalistic” songs and were forced to act as “violent rioters (were) trying to disrupt the proper course of the funeral.”
Prominent Palestinian figure Hanan Ashrawi said the raid on pallbearers showed Israel’s “inhumanity.”
Abu Akleh’s body was then transferred by vehicle to Jerusalem’s Old City where, after a short church service, it moved towards the cemetery on Mt. Zion.
Thousands of Palestinian mourners attempted to follow the coffin towards the cemetery just outside the walled Old City.
Police briefly attempted to prevent the crowd from passing through the iconic Jaffa gate, but ultimately relented, allowing thousands to stream towards the graveside, and did not intervene as Palestinian flags were waved during the march, AFP reporters said.
There was a tense calm in the city as crowds dispersed following Abu Akleh’s burial.
Roads were closed along the route of the procession as Israel bolstered security to “ensure the funeral takes place safely and without violence that could endanger participants or others”, an Israeli police spokeswoman said.
In a sign of Abu Akleh’s prominence, she was given what was described as a full state memorial on Thursday at Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s compound in Ramallah before being transferred to Jerusalem.
“Her voice entered every home, and her loss is a wound in our hearts,” said mourner Hadil Hamdan.
The United States, European Union and United Nations have backed calls for a full investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing.