Israelis, Palestinians Differ on Autopsy Results of Palestinian Minister

Palestinian official says medical examination shows Ziad Abu Ein died from being struck and inhaling tear gas; Israeli source: He died from a heart attack.

Amira Hass
Ido Efrati
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A Border Police soldier grabs Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein (L) during a demonstration in the village of Turmus Aya near Ramallah, on December 10, 2014.Credit: AFP
Amira Hass
Ido Efrati

A Palestinian official on Thursday accused Israel of being responsible for the death of Ziad Abu Ein, a Palestinian minister who died shortly after being shoved and grabbed by the neck by an Israeli Border Police officer at a West Bank protest on Wednesday.

Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh told Voice of Palestine radio that the examination of the body shows Abu Ein had died from being struck and inhaling tear gas. He accused Israel of responsibility for the minister's death.

Israeli medical sources said the autopsy suggested the primary cause of death was a heart attack caused by stress, apparently a result of Abu Ein's neck being grasped by an Israeli policeman, an event which was captured in video taken during the demonstration. The source added that Abu Ein's heart was in poor medical condition and thus at high risk due to prior health issues, including severe Atherosclerosis and tissue scarring.

The autopsy was carried out late on Wednesday. The Palestinian Authority agreed to allow an Israeli pathologist take part in the autopsy; additional pathologists from Jordan were also present.

Israeli sources claimed that the diagnosis of a heart attack caused by stress was also agreed upon by Jordanian pathologists, due to the finding of light bleeding that occured in Abu Ein's neck muscles and beneath his aorta prior to his death - a result common to stress. Bleeding in the gum, the tongue and the jaw area were also found, but could have been caused by resuscitation efforts.

Maj. Gen. Nimrod Shefer, head of the IDF's planning directorate, on Thursday expressed regret over Abu Ein's death. "We think that no one should die during a protest. We are investigating every soldier who was there," he added. "This is our responsibility. We see the security coordination as very important for both sides, and we will do everything necessary to maintain it."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday announced three days of mourning and halted all contacts and security coordination with Israel.

Abu Ein, who was in charge of the Settlements and Annexation Wall portfolio, will be buried Thursday. 

IDF launches investigation, boosts West Bank forces

The protest was held as part of the struggle of Palestinian villages Turmusiya and Al Mugheir against the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad, which has taken control of their land and prevented them from cultivating it.

The confrontation ensued after IDF and Border Police troops fired tear gas and stun grenades at the demonstrators, seeking to push them back. The two sides exchanged shoves and insults, and at a certain point Abu Ein - who was at the center of the brawl - walked away from the commotion and sat down on a nearby rock. He then asked to be taken to the Ramallah hospital and fainted. Sources close to the minister said he suffered from high blood pressure and diabeted.

Defense Minister Moshe said in an official statement that the IDF has launched an investigation into the circumstances of Abu Ein's death, and expressed regret over his death. Retaining stability in regards to the security situation, he added, "is important for both sides, and we will continue to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority."

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the death of Abu Ein “another example of Israel’s vicious and arrogant actions committed against the Palestinians.” He called on the international community to protect the Palestinians from "the crimes of an Israeli government full of settlers and extremists” and said that the Palestinian leadership is weighing its response.

Anticipating further unrest in the West Bank due to the event, IDF chief of staff Benny Ganz decided on Wednesday to add two additional military battalions and two companies of Border Police troops to the forces already stationed in the West Bank, after a holding an appraisal of the situation with top IDF officers.

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