Slain Al Jazeera journalist to be laid to rest in Jerusalem

A funeral service will be held on Friday afternoon at a Catholic church in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Ibrahim Almasri, an Egyptian freelance photographer, wraps his camera straps around his wrists like handcuffs during a protest as dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday to denounce the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Akleh
Ibrahim Almasri, an Egyptian freelance photographer, wraps his camera straps around his wrists like handcuffs during a protest as dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Thursday to denounce the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Akleh

Thousands of Palestinians are expected to attend the funeral in Jerusalem of an Al Jazeera journalist who witnesses say was shot dead by Israeli forces this week while covering a military operation in the occupied West Bank.

Recent days have seen an outpouring of grief from across the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world over the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran on-air correspondent who spent 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.

A funeral service will be held on Friday afternoon at a Catholic church in Jerusalem’s Old City before Ms Abu Akleh’s body is taken to a nearby cemetery for burial.

Large crowds are expected to attend amid a heightened Israeli police presence.

Two men hold placards as dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul
Two men hold placards as dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul (Mehmet Guzel/AP)

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round.

The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and take the case to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.

The Israeli military said on Friday its initial probe showed that a heavy firefight was underway around 200 meters from where Ms Abu Akleh was hit, but that it was unable to determine whether she was shot by Israeli forces or Palestinian militants.

It said Palestinian gunmen were firing recklessly and repeatedly at an Israeli military vehicle near to where Mr Abu Akleh was shot.

It said Israeli forces returned fire, and that without doing ballistic analysis it cannot determine who was responsible.

“The conclusion of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to determine the source of the fire that hit and killed the reporter,” the military said.

Both sides are likely to cast doubt on any conclusions reached by the other, and there did not appear to be any possibility of a third party carrying out an independent probe.

Within hours of her death, the PA and the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network accused Israel of deliberately killing Ms Abu Akleh, who was an American citizen.

Israel says a full investigation is needed before any conclusions can be drawn as to whether the fatal shot was fired by its forces or Palestinian militants.

Rights groups say Israel rarely follows through on investigations into the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and hands down lenient punishments on the rare occasions when it does.

Ms Abu Akleh, 51, had 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.

The veteran reporter was a widely respected member of the local press corps.

Palestinian children carry light candles and pictures of Shireen Abu Akleh in front of the office of Al Jazeera network in Gaza City
Palestinian children carry light candles and pictures of Shireen Abu Akleh in front of the office of Al Jazeera in Gaza City (Adel Hana/AP)

She was shot in the head early on Wednesday while covering an Israeli arrest raid in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Palestinians from 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 igniting gun battles with militants.

Israeli troops pushed into Jenin again early on Friday.

An Associated Press photographer heard heavy gunfire and explosions and said Israeli troops had surrounded a home.

The Palestinian health ministry said 11 Palestinians were hospitalised after being wounded in the fighting, including one who was shot in the stomach.

The Israeli military said Palestinians opened fire when its forces went in to arrest suspected militants.

Reporters who were with Ms Abu Akleh when she was killed, including one who was shot and hurt, said there were no clashes or militants in the immediate area.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of Shireen Abu Akleh out of the office of Al Jazeera after friends and colleagues paid their respects, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Shireen Abu Akleh out of the office of Al Jazeera after friends and colleagues paid their respects in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday (Nasser Nasser/AP)

All of them were wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as reporters.

Israel says its forces came under heavy fire from militants in different parts of the city that day.

Israeli officials initially suggested Ms Abu Akleh may have been struck by Palestinian gunfire but later backtracked and now say they have not yet reached any firm conclusions.

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 both territories as part of their future state.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally and views the entire city as its capital.

Police went to Ms Abu Akleh’s family home in Jerusalem on the day she was killed and have shown up at other mourning events in the city to remove Palestinian flags.

Tensions are running high ahead of the funeral.

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