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Israeli police use stun grenades and hit mourners at procession for slain journalist


The funeral of a Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, took place today just outside the old city of Jerusalem. She was shot to death Wednesday while covering violence between Palestinians and Israeli forces. Her funeral, which began earlier today, began with chaos of its own, with Israeli police attacking the pallbearers of her casket. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Jerusalem. Hey there, Daniel.


INSKEEP: Where are you? And what have you seen?

ESTRIN: Right now, I'm in a very peaceful place, right at the entrance to the Greek Orthodox cemetery where Shireen Abu Akleh was buried. But earlier today, there were some pretty ugly images from the hospital where her body was being held. Palestinians wanted to carry her body in a procession up a major road. That's tradition, to carry the body to be buried. Israeli police had arranged that her body be taken to the cemetery in a car. And so there was a disagreement. And forces charged at the pallbearers. Special police forces were beating people in the crowds. At one point, a police officer called on crowds to stop chanting, quote, "nationalist songs." And police fired stun grenades in the crowd. So there were some scenes of chaos, police grabbing Palestinian flags away from some marchers here and there. But then there were other scenes of just thousands of people in crowds flowing through the old city, the walled, old city of Jerusalem, and to this cemetery where she was buried. When she was being buried and put in the ground, churches of different denominations were ringing their bells in kind of a show of Christian denomination unity.

INSKEEP: Did that chaos you described reflect the broader attitude and the broader tension in Jerusalem today?

ESTRIN: Oh, yes. I mean, there is still large disagreement about who shot Shireen Abu Akleh.


ESTRIN: The Israeli army - and now you can hear one of those church bells ringing right next to the cemetery.


ESTRIN: But earlier today, the Israeli army completed its initial inquiry into who shot Shireen Abu Akleh. The army says they've narrowed it down to two possibilities, a Palestinian gunman firing at an Israeli army vehicle and an Israeli soldier firing at the gunman from - with his rifle from inside that army vehicle. The army went back to the scene of where that clash took place a couple of days ago to reenact what happened, to collect evidence. That turned into another gun battle with Palestinians in a separate place. An Israeli officer was killed in a separate gun battle and about a dozen Palestinians were wounded. But regarding who killed Abu Akleh, the army has the rifle. The bullet fired from it would have a telltale sign of which rifle, whether it was the Israeli army or not. That bullet is with the Palestinian Authority.

INSKEEP: And is the Palestinian Authority willing to cooperate in the investigation?

ESTRIN: Well, Palestinian officials have done their own investigation that continues. But they refuse Israeli requests to hand over the bullet. Israel even requests a joint look at the bullet with an American official present because Abu Akleh was a U.S. citizen. I met the Palestinian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Husam Zomlot - he was walking back from the funeral today - and asked him what kind of investigation the Palestinian Authority would accept. He said they would only accept handing the evidence to the International Criminal Court. They don't trust Israel.

INSKEEP: We're listening to NPR's Daniel Estrin. He's in Jerusalem. We're hearing in the background one of the church bells on this day of the funeral for Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.