Attack during Palestinian-Christian journalist’s funeral condemned

Christian and political leaders have spoken of their shock at Israeli police’s attack on mourners during a Palestinian-Christian journalist’s funeral.

Thousands of people were following the funeral in East Jerusalem last Friday when police charged, attacking mourners with various weapons.

Those carrying Al Jazeera television reporter Shereen Abu Aqleh’s coffin almost dropped it during the attack, the BBC reported.

The police claimed afterwards they acted after being pelted with stones, the BBC added.

Eyewitnesses to Abu Aqleh’s death say she was killed by the Israel Defence Forces while covering the army’s storming of Jenin camp on 11 March.

Israel denies this, attributing Abu Akleh’s death to Palestinian gunmen, saying she was caught in the crossfire.

Justice sought

“We ask for a thorough and urgent investigation of all the circumstances of her killing and for bringing those responsible to justice,” the Latin Patriarchate says.

“This blatant tragedy brings back to human conscience the need to find a just solution to the Palestinian conflict.

“We pray for the rest of Shereen’s soul, she was an example of duty and a strong voice for her people, and we ask God to grant her brother and relatives the consolation of faith. We pray that the Palestinian people find their way to freedom and peace.”

A related statement further condemning Israeli police action, because of its effect on a local hospital, was co-signed by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem on “behalf of the faithful of the Christian Churches in the Holy Land.”

The statement condemns the police’s violent intrusion into the funeral “as it was going [carrying Abu Aqleh’s coffin] from Saint Joseph Hospital to the Greek-Melkite Cathedral Church.

“The police stormed into a Christian health institute, disrespecting the Church, disrespecting the health institute, disrespecting the memory of the deceased and forcing the pallbearers almost to drop the coffin.”

They also condemned Israeli police’s disproportionate use of force, attacking mourners, striking them with batons, using smoke grenades, shooting rubber bullets and frightening the hospital’s patients.

Such behaviour is 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, the statement continues.
A “blatant murder” and a “heinous crime”

Al Jazeera Media Network in a statement called Abu Aqleh’s killing a “blatant murder” and a “heinous crime”.

The network accused Israeli forces of targeting the veteran journalist with live fire and assassinating her in “cold blood”.

Others are lining up to point their fingers at Israel.

A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply disturbed” by the events and the behaviour of police.

A White House spokeswoman says the images of police hitting mourners were disturbing.

The US Ambassador to Israel is calling for a “a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Abu Aqleh’s death”.

A State Department spokesperson says “those responsible must be held accountable”.


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