President Biden is calling for an investigation of baton-wielding Israeli police who charged into the funeral procession for American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh — after departing White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the incident “deeply disturbing.”
Israeli authorities said they rushed into the Jerusalem crowd — nearly causing Abu Akleh’s coffin to fall to the ground — after Palestinians threw rocks. The incident occurred just before a closed-door meeting at the White House between Biden and Jordanian King Abdullah II.
“We have all seen those images. They’re obviously deeply disturbing,” Psaki said at her final briefing before handing over the reins to incoming press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“We believe this is a day where we should all be marking, including everyone there, the memory of a remarkable journalist who lost her life.”
Psaki added, “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession. We’ve urged respect for the funeral procession, the mourners and the family at this sensitive time. We’re also in close touch with Israeli and Palestinian authorities — have been and obviously will continue to be, especially given the scene today.”
Moments later, Biden weighed in on the fracas while taking questions from reporters in the Rose Garden.
“Do you condemn the police force in Israel for their actions at the funeral of the Palestinian American journalist?” a reporter asked.
“I don’t know all the detail, but I know it has to be investigated,” Biden replied, without specifying who should do the investigation.
Abu Akleh, 51, was fatally shot in the head Wednesday while covering an Israeli raid in the northern town of Jenin in the West Bank. She was descended from a Palestinian Christian family and had worked for the Qatar-based news channel since 1997.
Israel has called for a joint investigation with the Palestinian Authority and for the PA to hand over the bullet that killed Abu Akleh for forensic analysis to determine who fired it. The PA has refused, saying it will conduct its own investigation and send the results to the International Criminal Court.
Psaki said, “We’re not currently involved in any of the investigation, but we are working to bridge cooperation and are available to provide assistance as needed.”
It’s unclear why Biden’s meeting with the Jordanian king was closed to reporters. A White House readout of the meeting said the leaders discussed the unrest in Israel and the West Bank ahead of a possible visit by Biden next month.
Biden and Abdullah “consulted on recent events in the region and discussed urgent mechanisms to stem violence, calm rhetoric and reduce tensions in Israel and the West Bank,” the White House said.
“The President affirmed his strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and cited the need to preserve the historic status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” the statement said. “The President also recognized the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s crucial role as the custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The leaders discussed the political and economic benefits of further regional integration in infrastructure, energy, water, and climate projects, with Jordan a critical hub for such cooperation and investment.”
With Post wires