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Shireen Abu Akleh: Israel arrests Palestinian pallbearer of journalist's coffin

Lawyer for Omar Abu Khdeir says interrogation with the Jerusalem resident has been focused on his participation in the funeral
Screengrab from Al-Qastal outlet of Omar Abu Khdeir showing footage on his phone of Israeli forces assaulting him during the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh (Screengrab)

Israeli authorities have detained a Palestinian who was assaulted while carrying Shireen Abu Akleh's coffin during the attack on her funeral last week, his lawyer told Middle East Eye. 

Omar Abu Khdeir, from the Shufaat neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was arrested on Monday morning and remains in custody. 

"The Shabak [Shin Bet, Israel's internal intelligence service] claims that they have a secret file against him and is accusing him of belonging to and assisting a terrorist group and planning terrorist acts in Jerusalem," Khaldoun Najm told MEE.

The lawyer added that Shin Bet denies that Abu Khdeir's arrest was linked to his participation in the funeral of Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli fire while on the job covering a raid on the Jenin refugee camp last week. She was wearing a bullet-proof vest with a press logo and a protective helmet. 

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However, the Israeli interrogation of Omar was all focused on Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral, why he was there, and why he kept bearing the coffin, Najm said. 

Abu Khdeir was among dozens of mourners who were attacked at the start of Abu Akleh's funeral procession outside Saint Joseph French Hospital on 13 May.

He kept bearing the coffin with one hand while shielding his head with his arm and elbow as Israeli forces beat him and other mourners using clubs and batons.

The scene went viral, and several news outlets interviewed Abu Khdeir to recount his story of the incident.

In a video interview, the Palestinian told Al-Qastel news website: "We only cared that the coffin does not fall and does not touch the ground," while they received blows from the Israeli forces.

Thousands of Palestinians participated in Abu Akleh's funeral in East Jerusalem. At least 33 Palestinians were injured, and 14 were arrested by Israeli forces.

Arrests in Jerusalem

On Monday, 70 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli forces, who attacked yet another funeral in Jerusalem.

Hundreds had joined the funeral of Walid al-Sharif, 23, who died on Saturday of wounds he sustained during violent Israeli raids in al-Aqsa Mosque in April.

Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse Palestinian mourners of Sharif, whose body was carried across al-Aqsa and brought through the Old City's Herod Gate before burial at a nearby cemetery.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club advocacy group said more than 50 people were arrested for participation in the funeral. Israel police put the arrest figure at 15.

Ynet reported those detained were later released after Israeli police failed to show evidence to the court that they were "lawbreakers and violent rioters".

Additional reporting by Latifeh Abdellatif from East Jerusalem.

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