Jerusalem (CNN)Israeli police say they will hold an investigation "into the events that ensued during the funeral" procession of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday.
Israeli police will investigate 'events' surrounding funeral of Palestinian journalist: Minister
"Unfortunately, during the course of the funeral, severe violent events unfolded on the part of those participating that worsened the situation on the ground," Israeli Minister of Public Security Omer Bar-Lev said in a statement to CNN.
"The investigative team appointed by Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and headed by Brigadier General Anna Ben Mordechai -- a seasoned commander who is familiar with the area in which the funeral took place -- will hold a comprehensive investigation into what happened during the funeral over the next day, in order to produce lessons from the incident. These lessons will be presented to the police commissioner and then to me," he added.
Israeli police came under criticism following Friday's procession, in which television footage showed officers striking mourners with batons, forcibly taking down Palestinian flags, and arresting individuals carrying the flag. One video released by the Israeli police shows officers ripping Palestinian flags off the hearse carrying Abu Akleh's coffin.
The Jerusalem Magistrate Court ruled in September 2021 that flying the Palestinian flag is not a criminal offense in Israel. Nevertheless, CNN witnessed the arrest of at least two individuals carrying a flag during Abu Akleh's procession.
"Flying the Palestinian flag does not constitute an offense under Israeli law," Israeli Knesset member Ahmad Tibi told CNN on Friday.
"When Omer Bar-Lev was appointed as Israel's Public Security Minister, he issued a directive limiting confiscation of Palestinian flags from demonstrators to cases where there is an immediate risk of disturbance of the peace. But what the police are doing directly opposes the minister's orders...What we see is flag-phobia of the Palestinian flag," he added.
When asked by CNN to clarify the reason for the taking down of Palestinian flags and the arrest of individuals carrying the flag, Israel's police force responded with a statement, which was also shared publicly on its Twitter account.
"Israel Police prepared yesterday to facilitate a calm and dignified funeral for journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and had coordinated the funeral arrangements with her family. Unfortunately, hundreds of rioters tried to sabotage the ceremony and harm the police," read the statement.
"Israel Police supports its police officers, but as a professional organization that seeks to learn and improve, it will also draw lessons from the incident," it added.
On Friday, mourners carried Abu Akleh's coffin out of the St. Joseph hospital in East Jerusalem, where her body remained until the burial, but were met with strong resistance from Israeli police who compelled them to transport the body by car. A flash bomb and tear gas were fired, according to CNN reporters.
The 51-year-old Palestinian-American Al Jazeera journalist was a prominent voice across the Arab world, delivering what many said was "the voice of Palestinian suffering" and their "aspirations of freedom."