Israel is in crisis mode after its horrific handling of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh

The death of Shireen Abu Akleh, Al Jazeera’s acclaimed Palestine correspondent – who was shot in the head last Wednesday while covering a firefight between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Jenin – has turned into a tragedy developed into a full-blown tragedy Diplomatic crisis for Israel.

A series of awkward reactions to the journalist’s death and the disastrous police handling of her funeral on Friday, during which officers beat pallbearers with batons and dispersed the crowd with flashbangs, have exposed Israel to a diplomatic maelstrom that has drawn criticism from even the politicians the country’s strongest ally.

The Israeli police have not responded to questions about their use of anti-terrorist police at the funeral or their counterinsurgency methods.

Videos of Abu Akleh’s coffin tipping over, slipping out of the hands of the pallbearers and almost hitting the ground prompted a rare rebuke from Foreign Minister Antony Blinken, who personally called Abu Akleh’s family to offer his condolences on the death of the renowned Palestinian-American journalist express.

The United States is “deeply disturbed to see the images of Israeli police entering her funeral procession,” Blinken said in a statement. “We remain in close contact with our Israeli and Palestinian counterparts and call on everyone to remain calm and avoid any action that could further escalate tensions.”

Family and friends carry the coffin of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in an Israeli raid in Jenin, West Bank, when clashes with Israeli security forces broke out during her funeral in Jerusalem May 13.

Ammar Awad/Reuters

More emphatically, the European Union said it was “horrified” by the scenes that unfolded during Abu Akleh’s funeral and condemned “the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behavior of the Israeli police towards the participants in the funeral procession”.

An Israeli police statement released at midnight on Friday, the day of the funeral, claimed that a “mob” threatened the driver of the hearse with Abu Akleh’s coffin and disrupted plans “which had been made in advance by the Israeli police along with… of the Abu Akleh family.”

“Israeli police intervened to disperse the mob and prevent them from taking the coffin so that the funeral could go ahead as planned and in accordance with the family’s wishes,” police said in a statement released by the brother of the family journalists was torn to pieces. Tony Abu Akleh, who told CNN that the police’s actions amounted to a “premeditated and brutal” attack.

Towards the end of one video, a commander appears to be reprimanding some of the officers.

On Monday, the Saint Joseph’s Hospital in East Jerusalem, where Abu Akleh’s body was being prepared for burial, was released a video of about a dozen Israeli police officers snatching their wards for no apparent reason.

Israel Police have announced an investigation into the incident, in which officers snatched Palestinian flags from the hands of mourners and, in one case, prevented a mourner from approaching the procession because her headdress was in the colors of the flag legally displayed allowed in Israel.


Palestinian artists paint a mural honoring slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in Gaza City May 12.

Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty

It emerged over the weekend that Jerusalem district commander Doron Turgeman had ordered his officers to confiscate Palestinian flags in Germany, where he was a member of a police delegation.

Turgeman has become known in recent years for the crude surveillance of his officials, which has included attacks on foreign journalists covering protests against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Monday, Israeli media reported that police were checking whether officers had been assigned to secure the funeral even authorized to use batons.

The police definition of mourners as a “mob,” which attracted worldwide attention, appeared to be a mistranslation of the words “lawbreakers and agitators‘ which appeared in the Hebrew version of the police statement.

In a radio interview, former Israel Defense Forces spokesman Jonathan Conricus criticized the police for not hiring English-speaking communications experts, before describing the incident as “a Palestinian ambush” that should have been foreseen, implying the willing cooperation of the police stationed foreign media in Israel.

Conricus declined to explain his terminology when approached by The Daily Beast.

“Israel’s credibility in such events is not very high.”

A unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an independent inquiry into the cause of the pioneering reporter’s death at work and a growing body of calls from the White House for an “immediate and thorough” investigation appear to be bearing no fruit.

Almost a week after Abu Akleh’s death, the investigation into the cause of death appears to have stalled. A Palestinian coroner who performed an autopsy examining the bullet that went through her helmet said the results were “inconclusive”.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said the Israeli army stands by its decision to “conduct a full investigation into this process,” but acknowledged that it had come to no conclusion.

“We are in the middle of the investigation and I don’t want to rule out any scenario at the moment,” he said, underscoring the importance he attaches to “protecting human life and freedom of the press” and requesting forensic data to the Palestinian government.

But a quick analysis of open-source data conducted by Bellingcat, the independent investigative organization, supports witness testimony that the shots that hit Abu Akleh were fired by the Israeli army.

A report entitled “Unraveling the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh” concludes that Abu Akleh was most likely shot dead by an Israeli soldier.

Israel has not made a good name for itself in investigating the deaths of reporters killed in combat. The Israeli army claims the death of 30-year-old photojournalist Yasser Murtaja, four years after he succumbed to his wounds on April 6, 2018, is still under investigation. Murtaja was shot dead in broad daylight while covering protests at the Gaza-Israel border. Like Abu Akleh, he wore a flak jacket with the word “PRESS” emblazoned on it.

Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai, also a former IDF spokesman, admitted this, telling an Israeli radio station that based on past experiences, “Israel’s credibility in such events is not very high.” Israel is in crisis mode after its horrific handling of the death of Shireen Abu Akleh


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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