JERUSALEM — Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral in Jerusalem on Friday of an Al Jazeera journalist who witnesses said was shot dead by Israeli forces earlier this week while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank.
The past few days have seen an outpouring of grief from across the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world. Abu Akleh was a highly respected on-air correspondent who spent a quarter of a century covering the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule, which is well into its sixth decade with no end in sight.
Dozens of people, many carrying Palestinian flags, tried to drag the coffin on foot from a hospital near the Old City. Israeli police intervened and began beating them with batons, forcing the pallbearers to briefly throw the coffin to the ground.
Police then allowed the family to drive the coffin to a Catholic church in the Old Town, packed with mourners, before sealing off the hospital and firing tear gas at dozens of protesters inside.
Qatar-based Al Jazeera previously said its chief executive, Ahmad Alyafei, would travel to Jerusalem to attend the funeral.
Israel called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal bullet. The PA refused, saying it would conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.
In a statement on Friday, the army said Palestinian gunmen recklessly fired hundreds of rounds at an Israeli military vehicle, some towards where Abu Akleh was standing. He said Israeli forces returned fire and without doing a ballistics analysis he cannot determine who was responsible for his death.
“The conclusion of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to determine the source of the fire which hit and killed the journalist,” the army said.
Journalists who were with Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said there were no clashes or militants in the immediate area when she was killed early Wednesday. All wore protective gear that clearly identified them as reporters.
Either party is likely to question the findings of the other, and there does not appear to be any possibility of a third party conducting an independent investigation.
The AP and Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Abu Akleh hours after his death. Israel says a full investigation is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
Rights groups say Israel rarely follows up on investigations into the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and issues lenient sentences on the rare occasions it does.
Abu Akleh, 51, joined Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language service in 1997 and rose to prominence covering the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising against Israeli rule, in the early 2000s.
She was shot in the head early Wednesday while covering an Israeli arrest operation in the West Bank city of Jenin. Palestinians in and around Jenin have carried out a series of deadly attacks inside Israel in recent weeks, and Israel has launched near-daily arrest raids in the area, often triggering gunfights with militants.
Israeli troops again entered Jenin early Friday. An Associated Press photographer heard heavy gunfire and explosions, and said Israeli troops surrounded a house.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians were hospitalized after being injured in the fighting, including one who was shot in the stomach. The Israeli army tweeted that the Palestinians opened fire when its forces intervened to arrest suspected militants.
Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem – including the Old City and its holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims – in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want the two territories to be part of their future state . Israel annexed East Jerusalem in an internationally unrecognized move and considers the entire city its capital.
Police visited Abu Akleh’s family home in Jerusalem the day she was killed and showed up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags. Tension mounts before the funeral.
Associated Press journalists Majdi Mohammed in Jenin, West Bank, Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.