US lawmakers decry Israeli forces for attacking the funeral procession of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh: 'This is just cruel'

1 week ago 24
  • Israeli police beat mourners in the funeral procession of a prominent Al Jazeera journalist.
  • Bernie Sanders decried the incident as an "outrage," while Ilhan Omar said it was "just cruel."
  • Al Jazeera and eyewitnesses say Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

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Congressional lawmakers and both current and former US diplomats expressed outrage after footage emerged showing Israeli police officers beating mourners in the funeral procession of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in East Jerusalem on Friday. 

"The attack by Israeli forces against mourners at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is an outrage," Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said on Twitter, adding, "The United States must condemn this, and demand an independent investigation into her killing."

"This is just cruel," Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said in a tweet. 

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a tweet responding to the footage said, "This is awful to watch."

A picture of Shireen Abu Akleh, Al-Jazeera reporter who was killed in Jenin on May 11, 2022

A picture of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli army gunfire during an Israeli raid, according to the Qatar-based news channel, is displayed, in Doha Imad Creidi/Reuters

The Biden administration also weighed in on the funeral attacks. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said she was "deeply distressed" by the images.

"The tragedy of her killing should be handled with the utmost respect, sobriety, and care," Thomas-Greenfield said via Twitter.

"We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday, calling the footage of Israeli police attacking mourners "deeply disturbing."

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was well-known and respected across the region, was shot and killed in the West Bank on Wednesday while reporting on Israeli military raids in the city of Jenin. Eyewitnesses said Abu Akleh was shot by Israeli forces. Al Jazeera also explicitly blamed the killing on Israeli forces, decrying it as "a blatant murder, violating international laws and norms." 

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett suggested that the slain journalist may have been shot by Palestinians. But Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz later said that Abu Akleh was possibly killed due to fire from "our side."

In a statement, Israeli police said they were "forced to act" after "rioters began throwing stones toward the policemen," per the New York Times.

—Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 13, 2022—Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) May 13, 2022

Aaron David Miller, a former US diplomat who advised multiple secretaries of state on the Middle East, said in a tweet that regardless of what an investigation into Abu Akleh's death reveals the Israeli government has "already lost" the "battle for public opinion."

"Hard to imagine any greater self-inflicted wound than scenes of Israeli police attacking Palestinians, including those carrying her coffin," Miller added.

The Israeli government has proposed conducting a joint investigation into Abu Akleh's killing, but the Palestinian Authority refused.  

"Israel requested a joint investigation and the handing over of the bullet that assassinated the journalist Shireen, and we refused that, and we affirmed that our investigation would be completed independently, and we will inform her family, America, Qatar and all official authorities of the results of the investigation," Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs head Hussein al-Sheikh said via Twitter.

The US State Department has urged for an "immediate and thorough" investigation of Abu Akleh's killing, stopping short of endorsing an independent inquiry. 

UN human rights experts on Friday demanded an "independent, impartial, effective, thorough and transparent investigation" into Abu Akleh's killing. "The killing of Abu Akleh is another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression, amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank," the experts said. 

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