Israeli leaders express sorrow, pledge inquiry into death of Palestinian minister

Israeli leaders emphasised the need for calm and pledged to carry out an investigation, after Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein died yesterday following an altercation with Israeli security forces in the West Bank.

Abu Ein headed the Palestinian Authority (PA) government agency which coordinates opposition towards West Bank settlement building and the security barrier. He participated in a protest yesterday over the presence of the Adei Ad settlement near Ramallah. As the protestors neared Adei Ad, Israeli security forces intervened to prevent them from advancing any further.

Television footage shows Abu Ein remonstrating with Israeli soldiers, one of whom briefly grabs his throat. Some minutes later, Abu Ein is filmed having collapsed. AFP says that an Israeli army medic treated Abu Ein before he was transferred via a Palestinian ambulance to hospital but died on the way. Although tear gas was used by Israeli forces, the footage does not show Abu Ein struck by a canister as suggested by some Palestinians. Others said that he had been struck in the chest with a rifle butt, a claim denied by an Israeli reporter on the scene. Abu Ein’s family said that he suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the unusual measure of sending his emissary Yitzhak Molcho to relay a message to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, pledging an investigation and which according to Netanyahu’s office “noted the importance of calming the ground, and acting responsibly.” Meanwhile, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that the IDF is investigating yesterday’s fatal incident and that, “We express sorrow over his death.” The IDF said that an Israeli pathologist would join a Jordanian team conducting the autopsy of Abu Ein’s body.

However, Abbas called Abu Ein’s death a “brutal assault” and “despicable crime” by Israel and said that “all options are open” in response. Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat commented that, “This new assassination will have severe consequences.” The PA leadership will reportedly announce their response tomorrow.

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