Church leaders condemn Israeli police actions at Palestinian journalist’s funeral
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Church leaders condemn Israeli police actions at Palestinian journalist’s funeral

Officers were seen beating mourners carrying the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in the West Bank last week

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

There were clashes between Israeli forces and the funeral cortege for Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)
There were clashes between Israeli forces and the funeral cortege for Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)

Israel’s top Catholic clergyman has accused police of disrespecting the church after officers were seen beating mourners carrying the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, the Palestinian journalist shot dead last week.

Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa said he was “shocked by the unjustifiable conduct [of Israeli police] and we want to denounce and condemn it in a clear and unequivocal way”.

Footage broadcast around the world on Friday showed officers moving in on crowds, some waving Palestinian flags, causing them to briefly drop the coffin.

They were carrying Abu Akleh’s body from a convent-run hospital to a nearby Catholic Church for her funeral service.

Pizzabella, who is the Vatican’s most senior official in the Holy Land, said it was “a severe violation of international norms and regulations, including the fundamental human right of freedom of religion, which must be observed also in a public space.”

He was speaking alongside 11 other Christian leaders based in Israel.

While Israel and the Palestinians remain locked in a war of narratives over the circumstances leading to the journalist’s death in Jenin last week, but there has been international uproar at the way her funeral was policed.

There were clashes between Israeli forces and the funeral cortege for Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday (Photo: Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The United States was among calling for an investigation, with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken saying he was “deeply troubled”.

“Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner,” he said.

In Britain, Boris Johnson said he was “appalled” by the journalist’s death.

Israeli police claimed to have agreed with Abu Akleh’s family that there would be no flags waved and that her coffin would be transported in a car and not on foot.

The family disputes that account.

Israel initially denied its forces were responsible for killing Abu Akleh, but has since called for a joint investigation into the shooting.

Palestinians officials have rejected the offer, saying they do not trust Israel.

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