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Israeli police attack mourners funeral of shot journalist Shireen Abu Akleh

By Joseph Krauss, PA

Israeli police have attacked mourners at the funeral of a journalist shot dead earlier this week.

Thousands of Palestinians attended the funeral in Jerusalem of an Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who witnesses say was shot dead by Israeli forces.

The well known and respected journalist was killed while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.

The Israeli military claim its initial investigation showed that a heavy firefight was underway around 200 meters from where Shireen Abu Akleh was killed, but that it was unable to determine whether she was shot by Israeli forces or Palestinian militants.

Recent days have seen an outpouring of grief from across the Palestinian territories and the wider Arab world.

Ms Abu Akleh was a widely respected on-air correspondent who spent quarter of a century covering the harsh realities of life under Israeli military rule, which is well into its sixth decade with no end in sight.

Dozens of people, many of them carrying Palestinian flags, tried to march the coffin on foot from a hospital to a Catholic church inside the Old City.

Israeli police moved in and scuffles broke out, with the coffin at one point dropping to the ground.

The police later allowed the family to take the coffin by car to the church, which was packed with mourners, before sealing off the hospital and firing tear gas at scores of protesters inside.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera had earlier said that its managing director, Ahmad Alyafei, would travel to Jerusalem to attend the funeral.

Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and for it to hand over the bullet for forensic analysis to determine who fired the fatal round.

The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court, which is already investigating possible Israeli war crimes.

In a statement yesterday, the military said Palestinian gunmen recklessly fired hundreds of rounds at an Israeli military vehicle, some in the direction of where Ms Abu Akleh was standing.

It said Israeli forces returned fire, and that without doing ballistic analysis it cannot determine who was responsible for her death.

"The conclusion of the interim investigation is that it is not possible to determine the source of the fire that hit and killed the reporter," the military said.

Reporters who were with Ms Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said there were no clashes or militants in the immediate area when she was killed early on Wednesday.

All of them were wearing protective equipment that clearly identified them as reporters.

Within hours of her death, the PA and Al Jazeera accused Israel of deliberately killing Ms Abu Akleh.

Israel says a full investigation is needed before any conclusions can be drawn.

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