The US on Thursday called on Israel to release the findings of an internal police investigation into violence at the funeral of slain Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, an American citizen.
Israeli police said Wednesday they had concluded a probe into the violence at the funeral — without however releasing any findings. Hebrew media reports on Thursday, meanwhile, said that no officers would face disciplinary proceedings for their roles in the incident.
The police launched the probe following an international outcry after the veteran reporter’s coffin was almost dropped when police attacked the pallbearers, beating some with batons, during her funeral last month.
Thousands had attended the service in East Jerusalem, and images of the unrest were broadcast live on TV. Israeli authorities blamed Palestinian protesters for the ugly scenes.
Abu Akleh was shot and killed last month during clashes between IDF troops and Palestinian gunmen while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin in the West Bank. A Palestinian probe said that an Israeli soldier shot her dead. Israel says it cannot definitively say who killed her until it examines the bullet, which the Palestinian Authority is refusing to share.
Abu Akleh also held US citizenship and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the Israeli police actions at the funeral.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the US was seeking more information about the probe into the funeral.
“Certainly, to us, typically these investigations — the findings of them — are released publicly,” Price told reporters in Washington.
Price reiterated that the United States believed the funeral had “disturbing intrusions into what should have been a peaceful procession.”
Meanwhile, Hebrew media reports said that Israeli police will not face serious punishments for conduct during the funeral, but had contradictory reports on the findings.
Channel 12 said the probe was meant to help the police draw conclusions and lessons from the incident, and not to mete out punishments.
The network said Thursday that police had determined that officers should not have used batons against funeral-goers, but approved their decision to go into the hospital courtyard.
Haaretz also said the internal probe had found some misconduct by officers, and that the use of clubs was unnecessary.
The Kan public broadcaster, however, said police believed the use of batons was justified.
Channel 12 reported Thursday that a close family member of Abu Akleh alerted police to problems at her Jerusalem funeral and asked for help.
The first-degree relative of the slain journalist told police that her coffin had been seized in the hospital by extremists against the family’s wishes.
The family member asked for immediate assistance from police, prompting them to take action against the pallbearers, the report said.
The family has denied this and Abu Akleh’s brother Anton rejected out of hand the police probe into the unrest at her funeral.
“We don’t care what Israel says or does, everything is clear from the photos. The police are the aggressors,” he told AFP. “They are trying to cover up their actions and mistakes.”
Also, Thursday, the Al Jazeera news network, which employed Abu Akleh, released a photo it said showed the bullet that caused her death.
It was the first public image of the bullet, which has been a centerpiece of controversy following her death.
Little information could be gleaned from the photo, with the bullet appearing to be of a type widely used by the IDF and Palestinian terror groups.
— قناة الجزيرة (@AJArabic) June 16, 2022
Police said Wednesday they would not release the findings of their investigation into the funeral, instead putting out a statement announcing that the findings had been delivered to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, along with a corresponding statement in which the former appeared to acknowledge some wrongdoing by the officers.
“The funeral procession of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was a complex event. It is impossible to remain indifferent to the difficult scenes,” Shabtai said in a statement issued upon the submission of police findings from the internal investigation that was launched into officers’ conduct at the funeral.
Shabtai said the incident needed to be properly reviewed, “so that [future] sensitive events such as these are not violently disturbed by rioters” — an apparent attempt to finger participants at the funeral as the ones responsible for the police response and the violent scenes that unfolded.
“Under my guidance, the police reviewed the conduct of the forces on the ground, with the aim of drawing lessons and improving operational conduct in similar future incidents,” he said, adding that he continues to trust the officers under his command “to do their job faithfully for the safety of the entire public.”
Police have faced intense scrutiny and global criticism over officers’ violent behavior at the May 13 funeral, which also saw officers, clubs drawn, enter the Saint Joseph’s Hospital itself.
Shabtai launched the internal investigation the next day.