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Middle East News
Palestinian Official Dies After Israeli Clash
From the Wall Street Journal of Wed, 10 Dec 2014 18:58:19 EST
Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, left foreground, during an altercation with Israeli security forces. Mr. Abu Ein was attending a demonstration marking International Human Rights Day in the village of Turmus Aya, near Ramallah. He later died in a West Bank hospital.
Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, left foreground, during an altercation with Israeli security forces. Mr. Abu Ein was attending a demonstration marking International Human Rights Day in the village of Turmus Aya, near Ramallah. He later died in a West Bank hospital. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

TEL AVIV—A senior Palestinian official died after scuffles with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, threatening to rekindle a new wave of violence.

The official, Ziad Abu Ein, was among Palestinian and Israeli protesters who tried Wednesday to enter a Jewish settler outpost called Adei Ad, 7 miles north of the West Bank city of Ramallah. The group said it planned to plant olive trees nearby to mark the U.N.-sponsored international Human Rights Day.

Israeli security forces confronted the demonstrators to try to prevent them from entering the outpost, according to Jamil Barghouti, a colleague of Mr. Abu Ein who witnessed the events. Mr. Abu Ein, 55 years old, lost consciousness at some point after he inhaled tear gas fired by Israeli forces, Mr. Barghouti said.

Roy Sharon, an Israeli television reporter who covered the demonstration, said that minutes after the Israelis fired the tear gas, Mr. Abu Ein became embroiled in a shouting and pushing match with members of the security forces. Photographs and video of the confrontation show one member of the force grabbing him by the neck. Afterward, he sat down on a rock to catch his breath, according to Mr. Sharon.

“The tear gas overwhelmed him,” he said.

Mr. Sharon said Mr. Abu Ein was able to sit up when he was driven away in an ambulance and didn’t appear to be seriously hurt. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead, Mr. Barghouti said.

The cause of death wasn't immediately clear and the Israeli military said Mr. Abu Ein’s body would be examined by a team of Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists.

The death threatened to ratchet up Israeli-Palestinian violence again after the summer’s Gaza conflict, which was followed by months of unrest in Jerusalem. The violence had eased in recent weeks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised an inquiry and stressed the need to calm tempers and act responsibly. The military said it was reviewing what happened.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Mr. Abu Ein’s death “barbaric” and declared three days of mourning. The death could increase public pressure on Mr. Abbas to move forward with a Palestinian proposal for a U.N. Security Council vote on a timetable for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, called the death an “assassination” and said the Palestinian Authority was weighing its response. He warned of “severe consequences.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said U.S. officials are “deeply concerned by the death of Palestinian Authority senior official Ziad Abu Ein, which reportedly occurred during a protest in the West Bank.” Ms. Psaki said the U.S. didn't know all of the circumstances of his death.

“As always, we call for this investigation to be swift, fair and transparent. And at this difficult time, we continue to call on both sides to work to lower tensions and prevent an escalation of violence,” she added.

At the time of his death, Mr. Abu Ein was a member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah, the West Bank’s ruling Palestinian political party. He held cabinet rank as head of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, an organization operated by the Palestine Liberation Organization that monitors Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank.

In 1982, he was convicted by an Israeli court of the murder three years earlier of two Israel teenagers and given a life sentence, according to news reports at the time. He was later released in a prisoner swap.

—Mohammed Najib, Joshua Mitnick and Felicia Schwartz contributed to this article.



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