Israel police insisted on Saturday that they only charged the funeral procession of slain American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh because a violent mob was stealing her coffin.
“Israel Police prepared yesterday to facilitate a peaceful and dignified funeral for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and coordinated funeral arrangements with her family. Unfortunately, hundreds of rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police,” the Israel Police said. he tweeted.
In a series of earlier tweet friday, Israeli police also said the rioters were so out of control that they even threatened Akleh’s hearse driver before trying to grab the coffin.
Shocking video footage shows Israeli authorities running into the Jerusalem crowd wielding batons and subsequently attacking the pallbearers, nearly causing Abu Akleh’s coffin to fall to the ground.
“On Friday, some 300 rioters arrived at Saint Joseph Hospital in Jerusalem and prevented family members from loading the coffin into the hearse to travel to the cemetery, as planned and coordinated with the family,” Israeli police tweeted.
“Instead, the mob threatened the hearse driver and then proceeded to carry the coffin in an unplanned procession to the cemetery on foot. This was against the wishes of the Abu-Akleh family and the security coordination that had been planned to protect the large number of mourners.
“The Israel Police ordered that the coffin be returned to the hearse, as was the [European Union] ambassador and Shireen Abu-Akleh’s own family, but the mob refused. The Israeli police intervened to disperse the crowd and prevent the coffin from being carried away 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, injuring both mourners and police officers.”
President Joe Biden has demanded an investigation of baton-wielding Israeli police who entered the procession, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki calling the incident “deeply disturbing.”
The incident occurred just before a closed-door White House meeting between Biden and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
Abu Akleh, 51, was fatally shot in the head on Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. He 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 Palestinian Authority to hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for forensic analysis to determine who fired it. The Palestinian Authority has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court.