Israeli, Palestinian pathologists dispute cause of Palestinian minister’s death

There was sharp disagreement yesterday between Israeli and Palestinian pathologists over the cause of Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister Abu Ein’s death following a joint autopsy.

Abu Ein, who headed the PA government agency which coordinates opposition towards West Bank settlement building, died on Wednesday following an altercation with Israeli security forces at a protest. Television footage showed Abu Ein remonstrating with Israeli soldiers, one of whom briefly grabbed his throat. However, the footage did not show that he had been struck by a tear gas canister or a rifle butt, as some Palestinian reports claimed. Abu Ein collapsed at the scene and died on the way to hospital.

Israeli leaders pledged an investigation into the incident, which PA President Mahmoud Abbas termed a “brutal assault” and a “despicable crime” by Israel. Israeli and Palestinian pathologists who conducted a joint autopsy yesterday offered conflicting reports over the cause of Abu Ein’s death. An Israeli Health Ministry statement said that Abu Ein suffered an underlying heart condition and died from “blockage of a coronary artery due to haemorrhaging” and that “the bleeding could have been induced by stress.” However, the Palestinian forensic expert, Dr Saber al-Aloul said that violence had been the cause of death, pointing to marks on Abu Ein’s body. The Israeli chief pathologist, Dr Chen Kugel told Israel Radio that such injuries were “more compatible with the results of resuscitation efforts.”

Abu Ein was buried yesterday in a funeral with full military honours in Ramallah. Thousands attended the ceremony at the Muqata presidential compound, where Abu Ein’s body was given an honour guard.

The PA leadership will reportedly determine its response to Abu Ein’s death on Sunday, according to Israel Radio. Abbas is thought to be under pressure to take strong action. There have been suggestions that the PA will end security cooperation with Israel in the West Bank. However, it appears more likely that the PA will step up diplomatic activity at the United Nations and other international bodies.

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