AFP / Ramallah, Palestinian Territories
Thousands of Palestinians yesterday honoured Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh across the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, a day after she was shot dead during an Israeli army raid.
The US, European Union and United Nations have backed calls for a full investigation into what Al Jazeera labelled a deliberate killing “in cold blood”, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) has rejected holding a joint probe with Israel.
In a sign of Abu Akleh’s stature among Palestinians, she received what was described as a full state memorial at the Ramallah compound of President Mahmud Abbas.
Thousands lined the route as her coffin, draped in the Palestinian flag, was driven through the West Bank city, where a street is to be renamed in her honour.
Many held flowers, wreaths and pictures of the slain journalist, who has been widely hailed for her bravery and professionalism through her coverage of the conflict.
“This crime should not go unpunished,” said Abbas, adding that the PA held Israel “completely responsible” for her death, and had “rejected” an Israeli proposal for a joint investigation.
Draped in a Palestinian scarf, mourner Tariq Ahmed, 45, described the death as a “tragedy for all the nation”, comparing his grief to that he felt at the funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “I have not felt this pain since Arafat died,” Ahmed said.
Another mourner, 45-year-old Hadil Hamdan, said that “Shireen was part of our lives”, adding that “her voice entered every home, and her loss is a wound in our hearts”.
Abu Akleh, a Christian born in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, is scheduled to be buried in the city today.
As her coffin began its journey to Jerusalem to the drumbeat of a marching band, crowds chanted slogans demanding an end to Palestinian security co-operation with Israel.
Israel had publicly called for a joint probe and stressed the need for Palestinian authorities to hand over the fatal bullet for forensic examination.
The European Union has urged an “independent” probe while the US demanded the killing be “transparently investigated”, calls echoed by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
Senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh, a close Abbas confidant, said the Palestinian “investigation would be completed independently”. He added that Abu Akleh’s family, the US, Qatar and “all official authorities” would be informed of the results.
An initial autopsy and forensic examination were conducted in Nablus in the Israel-occupied West Bank hours after her death, but no final conclusions have been disclosed.
In a move likely to further inflame West Bank tensions, Israel yesterday advanced plans for 4,427 Jewish settler homes.
About 475,000 settlers already live in the West Bank, alongside some 2.7mn Palestinians, in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law.
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