Thousands of mourners turned out on Thursday for a Palestinian state funeral for a minister who died after being grabbed by the neck by an Israeli Border Police officer at a West Bank protest, an incident that has raised tensions with Israel.
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To the sounds of drums and bagpipes, Ziad Abu Ein's Palestinian flag-draped coffin was carried by pallbearers in military uniform along a red carpet at the presidential compound in the city of Ramallah.
The funeral procession then streamed through the streets to a cemetery as people fired in the air. Crowds of men in leather jackets and black-and-white chequered scarves used mobile phones to film the funeral on a cold but sunny afternoon.
Abu Ein died shortly after a participating in a protest held by Palestinians on Wednesday near Ramallah, held as part of the struggle of the West Bank villages Turmusiya and Al Mugheir against the illegal settlement outpost of Adei Ad. IDF troops seeking to push the marchers back fired tear and stun grenades at the crowd, and a scuffle ensued, during which Abu Ein was grabbed in the neck by an Israeli policeman. 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.
Israeli and Palestinian officials issued conflicting accounts over the results of a joint Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli autopsy.
His death came at a time of heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians following months of violent unrest in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and throughout the West Bank.
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.