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Middle East News
Israel, Palestinians Spar Over Official's Death
From the Wall Street Journal of Thu, 11 Dec 2014 20:49:09 EST
Honor guards surround the coffin of Ziad Abu Ein during his funeral ceremony at the presidential compound in Ramallah, West Bank, on Dec. 11.
Honor guards surround the coffin of Ziad Abu Ein during his funeral ceremony at the presidential compound in Ramallah, West Bank, on Dec. 11. Getty Images

TEL AVIV—Israeli and Palestinian officials offered differing accounts on Thursday over what caused the death of a senior Palestinian political figure who collapsed after a scuffle with Israeli security forces during a protest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Ziad Abu Ein was pronounced dead Wednesday at a hospital in Ramallah, where he was rushed after his breathing grew labored following a tense run-in with Israel security forces near a Jewish settler outpost. A team of Palestinian and Israeli pathologists chosen by their governments later examined his body at a forensics institute in East Jerusalem.

Israel said on Thursday its doctors found that Mr. Abu Ein, 55, had long suffered from arteriosclerosis and died due to a blocked coronary artery.

“The poor condition of the deceased’s heart caused him to be more sensitive to stress,” the health ministry said.

Palestinian officials said its doctors concluded Mr. Abu Ein had died because of mistreatment by Israeli security forces at the protest.

Relatives of Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein mourned during his funeral Thursday in Ramallah.
Relatives of Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein mourned during his funeral Thursday in Ramallah. Reuters

He “was killed as a result of blows to the diaphragm and lungs, as well as the excessive use of force which included the shooting of poisoned tear gas,” said Hussein Sheikh, the Palestinian minister for civil affairs.

Israeli authorities said they were continuing to investigate the incident, as some Palestinian officials exerted pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cut off Israeli-Palestinian security coordination in the West Bank. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called the death a “sad note” and said “both sides have the duty to be responsible and encourage calm.”

As several thousand Palestinians gathered on Thursday in the West Bank city of Ramallah for Mr. Abu Ein’s funeral, scattered clashes erupted in the territory between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians hurling rocks. The Israeli military said it was on heightened alert.

On Wednesday, Mr. Abu Edin, who held ministerial rank in the Palestinian Authority as head of a commission that monitors Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, joined protesters who were marking international Human Rights Day by planting olive trees near the Jewish settler outpost of Adei Ad.

The demonstrators were blocked by Israeli soldiers and border police who fired tear gas, witnesses said, and Mr. Abu Ein became embroiled in shouting match with members of the security forces that also involved pushing and shoving. Shortly afterward, he encountered difficulty breathing and was taken to the hospital in Ramallah.

His funeral Thursday took place in Ramallah at the Muqata, the seat of Palestinian government in the West Bank. Palestinian politicians prayed over his flag-draped body, as an Israeli surveillance drone circled overhead. Some mourners called for revenge.

One of the mourners, Amin Shuman, said Mr. Abu Ein, whom he described as a longtime friend, had looked completely normal before Wednesday’s protest. He didn’t believe Israel’s finding.

“The claims that he suffered from heart disease are false,” he said. “The Israelis want to avoid responsibility for killing him.”

Mr. Abu Ein’s death has raised fears of a flare-up of unrest in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which has been shaken by months of months of rioting and communal violence.

On Nov. 17, a Palestinian driver was found hanging dead in a bus in Jerusalem. Israeli officials ruled the death a suicide, but many Palestinians called it a lynching. The next day, two Palestinians armed with knives and a gun killed four Jews as they prayed in a Jerusalem synagogue, before police killed them.

—Mohammed Najib in Ramallah contributed to this article.

Write to Nicholas Casey at nicholas.casey@wsj.com



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