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Israeli police beat mourners carrying coffin of slain Palestinian journalist

By Adam Schrader
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Israeli police beat mourners carrying coffin of slain Palestinian journalist
Palestinian wave national flags as they carry the casket of slain Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aklel during her funeral procession from the church toward the cemetery, in Jerusalem, Israel on Friday. Photo by Jamal Awad/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- Police officers in Israel were filmed beating pallbearers carrying the coffin for slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral Friday, causing them to nearly drop her body.

The pallbearers can be seen struggling to keep the coffin raised as the Israeli police officers swing at them with batons and kick them, video footage shows.

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Abu Akleh, a reporter for Al Jazeera, was shot dead Wednesday while covering a raid by Israeli Defense Forces on a Palestinian refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank. She had reportedly been wearing a jacket that identified her as a member of the press when she died.

Her funeral procession had marched from Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate but were met by police at the St. Joseph hospital complex on their way to Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery, CNN reported. Afterward, Abu Akleh -- a Christian -- was buried next to her parent's grave.

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Israeli Police said in a statement after the clash that the funeral procession had been coordinated by police with the Abu Akleh family beforehand and that "300 rioters" prevented the family from loading her body into a hearse to be taken to the cemetery "as had been planned."

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"Instead, the mob threatened the driver of the hearse and then proceeded to carry the coffin on an unplanned procession to the cemetery by foot," Israeli Police alleged.

"This went against the wishes of the Abu Akleh family and the security coordination's that had been planned to safeguard the large number of mourners."

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Israeli Police said that officers instructed mourners to return the coffin to the hearse but that "the mob refused" and instigated the clash by throwing "glass bottles and other objects."

Officials also released a video that appears to show one of the mourners throwing a bottle at police as they moved in to disperse them.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused Palestinians of shooting "in an inaccurate, indiscriminate and uncontrolled manner" during the raid that led to her death.

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"Our forces from the [Israel Defense Forces] returned fire as accurately, carefully and responsibly as possible," Bennett said. "Sadly, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in the exchange."

However, Ali al-Samoudi, another Al Jazeera journalist who was also shot and injured in the back, has disputed Israel's account and said the crew was "suddenly shot" by Israeli forces when no Palestinian military resistance was at the scene.

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