The UN Security Council on Friday night strongly condemned the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and called for “an immediate, thorough, transparent, and fair and impartial investigation”. The unanimous condemnation came hours after Israeli police charged and beat mourners at her funeral in Jerusalem's Old City.
The statement – a rare case of Security Council unity on an issue related to Israel – also called for "an immediate, thorough, transparent, and impartial investigation into her killing".
According to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity, the negotiations on the text were particularly arduous.
China successfully pushed the US to remove paragraphs denouncing abuses committed against the media around the world, defending their freedom and urging their protection while covering military operations, according to diplomatic sources and different versions of the declaration obtained by AFP during the discussions.
The final text merely says that "journalists should be protected as civilians" and does not mention violence during the Friday funeral for Abu Akleh.
US, EU slam Israeli police attack on pallbearers
Anger at Abu Akleh's killing escalated Friday when Israeli riot police pushed and beat pallbearers, causing them to briefly drop her casket in a shocking start to her funeral procession. It turned into perhaps the largest display of Palestinian nationalism in Jerusalem in a generation. Abu Akleh, a star journalist for Al Jazeera, was killed as she covered unrest in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
As the body of Abu Akleh, a Palestinian Christian and a US citizen, left St Joseph's hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, Israeli police stormed mourners who had hoisted Palestinian flags.
Israeli police routinely intervenes against public displays of the Palestinian flag despite an Israeli court ruling last year confirming that flying the flag was legal and does not constitute a criminal offence.
Police said they had warned the crowd to stop "nationalistic" songs and were forced to act as "violent rioters (were) trying to disrupt the proper course of the funeral".
But prominent Palestinian figure Hanan Ashrawi said the police charge on pallbearers showed Israel's "inhumanity".
The US was "deeply troubled to see the images of Israeli police intruding into her funeral procession today", Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
"Every family deserves to be able to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner."
We were deeply troubled by the images of Israeli police intruding into the funeral procession of Palestinian American Shireen Abu Akleh. Every family deserves to lay their loved ones to rest in a dignified and unimpeded manner.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 13, 2022
The EU tweeted that it was "appalled by the violence in the St Joseph Hospital compound and the level of unnecessary force exercised by Israeli police throughout the funeral procession".
Dismayed by the scenes witnessed today at the margins of Ms Abu Akleh's funeral and the disproportionate and disrespectful use of force on a funeral procession. Maintaining public order can be done by other means.
— Dimiter Tzantchev (@DTzantchev) May 13, 2022
Israel suggests Palestinian responsibility, backtracks
The Qatar-based network alleged that she was deliberately targeted by Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett initially said that armed Palestinians were "likely" responsible, but Israel has since backtracked on the allegation and said it was investigating the incident.
But the Palestinians rejected a joint investigation and demanded an independent international investigation.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for her killing and said he would immediately ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate. The ICC launched an investigation into possible Israeli war crimes over a year ago, a probe Israel has rejected as biased.
The Security Council did not use the word international, calling for an impartial investigation and stressing the need to ensure accountability.
Negotiations on the council statement were led by Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
Norway's UN Ambassador Mona Juul commended the “good collaboration", calling the protection of journalists a priority for her country.
“We are particularly concerned about the rising trend in attacks on media works, and on women journalists in particular," Juul said in a statement.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)