Palestinian mourners bid farewell to Shireen Abu Akleh, demand justice
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians gathered on Thursday at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, Al-Jazeera's correspondent who was killed by the Israeli army, in Ramallah and her hometown of Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem.
Abu Akleh was a prominent Palestinian-American journalist who covered most of the events in the Palestinian territories over the past 25 years.
In the presence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Akleh's body, which was wrapped with a Palestinian flag, was moved in an official funeral procession to the presidential headquarters in central Ramallah.
The mourners carried the body of Abu Akleh on the shoulders of members of the military honour guard, while others placed flowers.
Participants raised Palestinian flags and pictures of Abu Akleh, and also chanted slogans against Israel. Palestinian officials said that her final funeral will be held for her on Friday at the Roman Catholic church in Jerusalem, and she will be buried at the Zion Cemetery alongside her parents.
Samiha Farraj, a young woman from Nablus, said she was unable to hold back her tears during the funeral. "Shireen was not an ordinary journalist but she was the voice of all of us. She was expressing our issues, concerns, and tragic daily lives due to the Israeli occupation," the 39-year-old woman said to The New Arab.
"Once I heard the news of her death, I felt as if my sister had been killed. Israel killed us all by committing this heinous crime," she said.
On his part, Ibrahim Wazwaz's journey to Abu Akleh's funeral from Hebron took many hours, but he said it was worth it.
"We grew up on Sherine's voice while she was covering the Israeli violations and crimes against our defenceless people," said the 23-year-old young man, as he carried a big picture of Abu Akleh.
"We have lost a Palestinian media icon who left her mark in the hearts of all Palestinians," Wazwaz said. "I cried so much when I watched the video of the moment she was deliberately killed by the Israeli soldiers."
"The Israeli army always proves that everyone is a target for them," he added. "Shireen's voice was a lethal weapon directed against the Israelis (...) so the decision to execute her was the best solution for them to get rid of her disturbance to them."
However, he stressed, "Israel's attempts to silence the Palestinians will fail because there are hundreds of journalists who adopt Shireen's approach in resisting the occupation through the media and constantly exposing its crimes."
Meanwhile, many of the mourners demanded that the Israeli army's senior staff be brought before international courts to hold them accountable for their crimes.
Abu Akleh, 51, was reporting for Al Jazeera about an Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank when she was shot in the head reportedly by an Israeli sniper, despite wearing a vest that identified her as a journalist.
The shooting of Abu Akleh brings the number of journalists killed by the Israeli military since the year 2000 to 55, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said. Countless others have been wounded.