Israeli forces stormed the grounds of a Jerusalem hospital Friday as the coffin containing the body of a slain journalist emerged ahead of burial, with police saying they acted against people "disrupting the public order".
TV images showed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh's coffin nearly falling to the ground as police grabbed Palestinian flags from the crowd around the procession outside Saint Joseph's hospital in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. Israel forbids public displays of Palestinian flags and often storms individuals who hoist them at rallies or protests in the city.
A senior Palestinian figure, Hanan Ashrawi, tweeted that "savage #Israeli 'special forces' viciously attack the funeral procession bearing the coffin" of Abu Akleh as it left St. Joseph's. "The inhumanity (of) Israel is on full display", said the former top Palestine Liberation Organization official.
In a statement, police said they had held dialogue with Abu Akleh's family ahead of time in order to "enable a respectable funeral. "Unfortunately under the auspices of the funeral and taking cynical advantage of it, hundreds of people began disrupting the public order before it even began," police said.
"As the coffin was about to exit the hospital, stones began to be thrown at officers from the hospital's plaza, and the officers were forced to use riot dispersal means," the statement added. Police also released a video in which an officer, outside the hospital grounds, is addressing the crowd over a loudspeaker.
"If you don't stop these chants and (Palestinians) nationalistic songs we will have to disperse you using force and we won't let the funeral take place," the officer says in the video. Abu Akleh's coffin left the hospital grounds by vehicle and had arrived at a Jerusalem church for her funeral.
She was killed Wednesday while covering clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in Jenin in the occupied West Bank.