Hundreds gather in Israeli cities to protest death of Al Jazeera reporter

Three Palestinians arrested in clashes with police in East Jerusalem; peaceful rallies held in Haifa and Nazareth

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Palestinian protesters in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina clash with police during a protest condemning the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen, May 11, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Palestinian protesters in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina clash with police during a protest condemning the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen, May 11, 2022. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Hundreds of Palestinians and Arab Israelis protested the death of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh on Wednesday, with rallies held in East Jerusalem, Haifa and Nazareth, including a protest that turned violent in the capital.

In East Jerusalem, mourners gathered at Abu Akleh’s home in the middle-class Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina to pay their respects.

Israeli police arrived at the scene in response to reports of incitement, apparently referring to Palestinian flags waved by mourners and statements chanted by the crowd.

“The police encountered riots and cries of incitement and had a dialogue with the landlords in order to ensure law and order,” police said in a statement.

Clashes between protesters and police officers were reported shortly after, with rioters throwing stones, blocking traffic and clashing with police on Route 20 that connects the Palestinian neighborhood with the nearby Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.

In a video uploaded to social media, one individual is seen attaching a Palestinian flag to a police car.

Another video shows two Israeli women taking off Israeli flags hanging from their car as they stand in a traffic jam near the site of the riots, apparently fearing being attacked by rioters.

Three suspects were arrested, police said, noting that the riots were under control but could break out again during the night.

Approximately 200 Arab Israeli protesters gathered in Haifa’s Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, carrying Palestinian flags and chanting: “With spirit, with blood, we’ll redeem Shireen!”

Protesters blocked Ben Gurion Boulevard in the city, home to a mixed Jewish and Arab population.

“Israel is looking to silence us as a strategic goal,” one protester told Haaretz.

“Why do we see shootings, violence and arrests in protests? They’re meant to silence us and deter people from exercising their right to free speech,” he said.

Former Arab Israeli lawmaker Issam Makhoul spoke at the event, calling Abu Akleh’s death a “targeted strike” and a “war crime,” which he said was the “result of the frustration caused by the unsuccessful occupation policy.”

“Those who think that the solution will come by applying more force, will fail both security-wise and politically-wise and will lead to more suffering to both peoples,” he said.

Dozens of people protested Abu Akleh’s death in the northern Arab-majority city of Nazareth, waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans that included: “Shireen Abu Akleh’s message won’t die with her.”

No violent incidents or clashes with police were reported in Haifa and Nazareth.

Akleh, 51, was shot in the head Wednesday morning during clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an Israeli army operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

Shireen Abu Akleh reporting from the West Bank for Al Jazeera in an undated clip (Al Jazeera screenshot)

The Palestinian Authority health ministry and Palestinian witnesses, including other journalists, said Israeli troops fired the gunshots that killed Abu Akleh.

The Israeli government said that armed Palestinians may have fired the fatal shot.

According to reports on Hebrew-language media Wednesday evening, Israeli and Palestinian officials were holding talks for cooperation in the investigation into Abu Akleh’s death.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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