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Report: Shin Bet urged no intervention in Abu Akleh funeral; police ignored it

Both Shin Bet and police decline to comment on closed-door discussions, but cops add they were unaware of any such suggestion

Israeli police confront mourners as they carry the casket of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, almost toppling it, outside Saint Joseph's Hospital during her funeral in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Levin)
Israeli police confront mourners as they carry the casket of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, almost toppling it, outside Saint Joseph's Hospital during her funeral in Jerusalem, May 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Maya Levin)

Police reportedly ignored a recommendation from the Shin Bet in the lead up to the Jerusalem funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, urging that it allow the procession to pass undisturbed.

According to a report by the Kan public broadcaster, the internal security organization made the recommendation, believing that it was essential to prevent violence during the May 13 funeral. The report quoted police sources saying the Shin Bet specifically told police that if the mourners wanted to carry the casket for a lengthy Jerusalem procession, rather than place it in a hearse for the part of the journey from an east Jerusalem hospital to the Old City, they should be allowed to do so.

Despite the reported advice, Israeli police violently dispersed an attempt by Palestinians to carry the casket of the veteran journalist on foot to the Old City while thousands gathered to grieve her.

Responding to the report, the Shin Ben noted it works closely with the police and does not comment on conversations held behind closed doors.

The police responded similarly, but added that the alleged recommendation was not known to them.

Clashes at Saint Joseph’s Hospital erupted after Palestinians sought to carry Abu Akleh’s coffin on foot, waving several Palestinian flags, to the Old City. Police had designated that the procession would begin at the Jaffa Gate, less than two miles away.

Police have claimed that the casket was seized by a mob of 300 rioters, against the family’s wishes, outside Jerusalem’s St. Joseph’s Hospital, prompting the cops’ intervention. Abu Akleh’s brother, however, said the family and mourners had hoped to hold a “smooth procession” but were “bombarded” by officers as they left the hospital.

The scenes of Abu Akleh’s funeral showing police with long batons rushing and beating mourners, including pallbearers, and almost causing her casket to fall prompted an international outcry, with the White House saying it was “deeply disturbing,” while the European Union said it was “appalled.” Police were also filmed, batons drawn, inside the hospital.

The police opened an investigation into the events, saying: “The Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident.”

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

Abu Akleh was killed by gunfire on May 11 while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

The Palestinians have accused Israeli soldiers of killing her. Israel says it is possible she was hit by IDF fire, but cannot draw final conclusions while the Palestinian Authority refuses to cooperate in the investigation and turn over the bullet that killed her.

Abu Akleh was one of the most beloved Palestinian journalists working in Arabic media. A longtime correspondent for the pan-Arab network Al Jazeera, many also saw her as a trailblazing model for women in a field dominated by men.

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