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Shireen Abu Akleh: British MPs call for inquiry over journalist's killing and funeral attack

Opposition Labour Party says UK government should condemn 'outrageous' killing of Al Jazeera journalist
A scene from a London vigil for US-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (Reuters)

British MPs have called for an inquiry into the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and the disruption of her funeral by Israeli police.

The shooting dead of Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera reporter, by an Israeli sniper last Wednesday has provoked outrage internationally.

An attack by Israeli police on her funeral later in the week further enflamed public opinion and led to demands for accountability. 

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Asking an Urgent Question in the British House of Commons on Monday, the opposition Labour Party's shadow minister for the Middle East and North Africa called for an "independent inquiry" into the killings and called on the government to condemn the violence at the funeral.

"The killing of Shireen Abu Akleh was not only an outrageous act, but an attack on the freedom of the media and the independence of journalists working around the world, playing a crucial role in reporting conflicts, seeking truth and telling the stories of those affected," said Bambos Charalambous.

"The Labour party unequivocally condemns the violence by Israeli forces. International and human rights must be upheld, and we stand with all those demanding accountability for the killing of Shireen. There must be an urgent, independent and impartial inquiry to secure that."

In response, Vicky Ford, minister for Africa at the foreign office, described the killing of Abu Akleh as "shocking" and said there needed to be a "thorough and impartial" investigation.

'Deplorable' scenes

Israeli police have been globally censured for scenes at last Friday's funeral, where officers beat mourners as they carried Abu Akleh's coffin outside the hospital, nearly causing it to fall to the ground.

Israeli police have claimed that a mob of "300 rioters" had seized the coffin at the hospital as justification for its conduct, but Abu Akleh's brother denied this in an interview with The Times of Israel on Sunday.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American and a 25-year veteran of Al Jazeera Arabic, was killed last Wednesday while covering an Israeli military raid in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

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Israel initially said that Palestinian fighters may have been responsible for the death, but then backtracked on its statement, saying it is still unclear what transpired.

Eyewitnesses, including MEE correspondent Shatha Hanaysha, said that Abu Akleh had come under Israeli sniper fire.

A number of other British MPs chimed in to give their views as well.

David Jones, a Conservative, said there could be "absolutely no doubt" as to what had happened at the funeral and said the government should condemn the "deplorable" scenes, while fellow Conservative MP Bob Blackman accused the Palestinian Authority of "refusing to hand over the bullet that killed the journalist" for purpose of an investigation.

Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP of Palestinian descent, said the attack on the funeral was "unhelpful to the peace process."

"Shireen Abu Akleh was a Christian Palestinian like my family, and her death feels like we have lost a sister," she said.

While Israel is in the middle of conducting its internal investigation, a number of research and human rights groups have launched their own probes.

Bellingcat, a Dutch-based international consortium of researchers, published an analysis of video and audio evidence gathered on social media and concluded that it was likely Israeli forces had killed Abu Akleh.

The material came from both Palestinian and Israeli military sources, and the analysis looked at such factors as timestamps, the locations of the videos, shadows, and forensic audio analysis of gunshots.

"Based on what we were able to review, Israeli forces were in the closest position and had the clearest line of sight to Abu Akleh," said Giancarlo Fiorella, the lead researcher of the analysis.