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Arab Israel Conflict
Palestinian minister dies after protest
From the Financial Times of Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:35:20 GMT
Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein (L) argues with Israeli soldiers during a protest near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 10, 2014. The Palestinian minister died shortly after being hit by Israeli soldiers during a protest on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank, a Reuters photographer who witnessed the incident and a Palestinian medic said. Abu Ein, a minister without portfolio who was in his early 50s, was rushed by ambulance from the scene, in the village of Turmusiya, but died en route to the nearby Palestinian city of Ramallah. The Israeli army was looking into the incident, a spokeswoman said, She did not immediately provide further information. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)©Reuters

Ziad Abu Ein, left, argues with Israeli soldiers near the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Palestinian minister died shortly after during clashes

A Palestinian government official died after a clash with Israeli soldiers at a peaceful protest on Wednesday in the northern West Bank, prompting officials in Ramallah to blame Israel’s government for the death and to threaten retaliatory steps.

The Palestinian Authority declared three days of mourning after Ziad Abu Ein died on his way to hospital after the clash, which Palestinian officials said occurred around midday in Turmusayya, a village between Ramallah and Nablus.

Video footage from the scene broadcast by Sky News’ Arabic channel on Wednesday afternoon showed Abu Ein being grabbed by the neck and shoved by an Israeli border policeman — part of a force that works alongside the Israel Defense Forces in Palestinian areas — and the minister later lying on the ground.

The Palestinian leadership called a meeting for 7pm, apparently in response to the killing, with President Mahmoud Abbas due to attend.

The IDF said it was reviewing the circumstances of Abu Ein’s death, and that an Israeli pathologist and a delegation of pathologists from neighbouring Jordan would jointly examine the circumstances of the minister’s death.

Israel’s military also said it had proposed to the Palestinians the creation of a joint investigation team to study the incident.

“Early today, approximately 200 rioters gathered in Turmusayya, near Ramallah,” the IDF said. “Forces halted the progress of the rioters into the civilian community of Adei-Ad using riot dispersal means.”

Robert Serry, the UN’s special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, appealed for calm and encouraged Israel to conduct a “prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstance of his death”.

Palestinian officials said Abu Ein, 55, a minister without portfolio in charge of matters relating to Israeli settlements and the separation wall and a senior member of the ruling Fatah movement, was taking part in a peaceful demonstration marking International Human Rights Day.

They said the minister was planting olive trees in Turmusayya, when a clash occurred with IDF and he was beaten on his chest by soldiers.

The area is home to several Israeli settlements, which are recognised as illegal under international law, and have been an irritant in the Palestinians’ drive to establish an independent state. Settlers have burnt and chopped down Palestinians’ olive trees in numerous disputes over land.

“They were planting olive trees at a village when Israeli forces came to provoke him,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organisation. “He was beaten on his chest and he died on his way to hospital.”

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator in the latest, failed round of peace talks with the Israelis, said Abu Ein’s death marked “another example of Israel’s vicious and arrogant actions committed against the Palestinians”. He blamed Israel’s government for the minister’s death.

“The Israel government bears full responsibility for the killing of minister Abu Ein and the systematic crimes committed against the Palestinian people,” he said.

“This new assassination will have severe consequences,” Mr Erekat said. “The Palestinian leadership is currently weighing its response.”

A spokesman for the IDF said the Israeli military was receiving reports of the incident and was looking into what had happened.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency, citing unnamed medical officials, said Abu Ein lost consciousness when his heart stopped after being beaten by Israeli soldiers and inhaling tear gas.

The minister’s death comes at a time when tensions between the Israeli government and its Palestinian counterpart have been rising over communal violence, the collapsed peace process and the recent war in the Gaza Strip.

The two sides broke off the most recent round of US-sponsored peace talks in April and Ramallah officials condemned the Israeli conduct of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza, in which more than 2,100 Palestinians died.

About two dozen Israelis and Palestinians have also died in stabbings, shootings, and other violence in Jerusalem since July.

The Palestinian leadership is seeking passage of a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an end to Israel’s occupation, and officials say they are poised to join the International Criminal Court, a move that Israel vehemently opposes and would likely prompt it to take retaliatory measures.

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