Israel Police on Wednesday refused to release the results of an internal probe into the conduct of officers at the funeral procession for slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, during which police attacked pallbearers and nearly dropped her coffin.
Instead, law enforcement officials settled for a statement announcing that the findings had been sent to Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, along with a related statement stating the former alleged wrongdoing by the officers acknowledges.
“The funeral procession of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was a complex event. It is impossible to remain indifferent in the face of the difficult scenes,” Shabtai said in a statement released after police findings from the internal investigation opened into officers’ behavior at the funeral.
Shabtai said the incident needs to be properly investigated, “so that [future] sensitive events like these are not violently disrupted by rioters” – an apparent attempt to label those attending the funeral as those responsible for the police response and the violent scenes that unfolded.
“Under my direction, the police reviewed the behavior of the emergency services on the ground with the aim of learning lessons and improving operational behavior in similar future incidents,” he said, adding that he continues to trust the officers under his command Work faithfully for the safety of the entire public.”
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When asked why there was no mention of what the investigation had found, a police source told Ynet: “That’s it for now.”
Another video shows ISF elements storming Saint Joseph Hospital and beating a group of Palestinians who were carrying the body of the late journalist Shireen Abu Aqla, who was shot dead by ISF three days ago during an ISF operation in Jenin City. pic.twitter.com/RAhqpbxDGb
— Local Focus – Security Warnings (@LocalFocus1) May 13, 2022
The source said the investigation had gone well and no individual officers were being reprimanded.
The police statement was issued at 9:30 p.m. and appeared to indicate the police officers’ desire not to draw attention to the matter.
Police have come under intense scrutiny and global criticism for the violent behavior of officers at the funeral on May 13, which included officers with batons drawn entering Saint Joseph’s Hospital itself. Shabtai launched the internal investigation the next day.
Shireen Abu Akleh reports from the West Bank for Al Jazeera in an undated clip (Screenshot by Al Jazeera)
According to a report by Channel 13 last month, the internal police report concluded the use of force – including flashbangs – could have been avoided.
The network said the internal investigation also revealed that police received information about a possible attempt by thousands of protesters to reach Jerusalem’s Haim Bar Lev street to disrupt the peace and try to stop traveling Jews there violate. Police said it was therefore necessary to prevent crowds from reaching the street, and for this reason the coffin was taken by hearse to the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American and 25-year veteran of Al Jazeera satellite channel, was killed in clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen on May 11 while covering an Israeli military attack in the West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp. The Palestinians have accused Israeli forces of deliberately attacking them, while Israel has said it cannot determine who was responsible as long as the Palestinian Authority refuses to hand over the fatal bullet used to kill Abu Akleh. The PA has so far refused to do so, confident that Israel will whitewash the killing.
Video footage documented police violence against the pallbearers as well as others outside the hospital and showed dozens of Israeli police officers storming into the hospital, punching and shoving people inside, including patients, and firing from the medical center grounds.
Police Chief Kobi Shabtai attends a ceremony honoring the Israeli security forces at the Knesset in Jerusalem May 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Some of the video clips – including security footage from inside Saint Joseph’s Hospital – were presented by local Christian leaders at a press conference violating police conduct during Abu Akleh’s funeral.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Emergency Services reported that its medics treated 33 Palestinians for injuries during the funeral; six were hospitalized.
According to initial reports, police had started the funeral procession at Jaffa Gate, but a group of Palestinians in the hospital confiscated Abu Akleh’s coffin to begin an impromptu march.
After a brief pause, officers charged the crowd, beating mourners and firing flashbangs into the crowd.
Israeli police officers are seen at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem May 16, 2022, from where the funeral of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh began. (Screenshot: Twitter)
In official statements, police later said a mob of 300 rioters confiscated the coffin against the family’s wishes and intended to march with it from the hospital to Jaffa Gate, contrary to the agreement police had reached with the family. Anton Abu Akleh, Shireen’s older brother, told the Times of Israel this was not true and that the family and mourners had hoped to hold a “smooth move” but were “bombed” by officers as they exited the hospital.
Abu Akleh’s body was eventually taken by van from the hospital, surrounded by a police escort, to the Greek Melkite Church near the Jaffa Gate and from there in a walking procession to burial in a cemetery on Mount Zion. Officials tore Palestinian flags from the van before escorting it to the church.
Police also released video of a commander warning crowds that he would not allow the procession if they continued to sing “nationalist and inciting chants”.
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