Palestinian minister dies after run-in with IDF soldiers in West Bank protest

Palestinian minister dies after run-in with IDF soldiers in West Bank protest
The settlement minister in the Palestinian Authority (PA), Ziad Abu Ein, died after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers during a West Bank protest, witnesses and medics said. President Mahmoud Abbas called Abu Ein's death a "brutal act".

There are conflicting reports on how Abu Ein, a leading member of Abbas' Fatah movement and cabinet minister, died.

Several media outlets say he was reportedly struck in the chest with a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops, after which he collapsed. Other reports say Israeli forces beat Abu Ein with the butts of their rifles and their helmets. Following the violent altercation, he was later rushed to the hospital in Ramallah by ambulance, but reportedly died en route.

Ahmed Bitawi, the director of the Ramallah hospital, told AFP Abu Ein "was martyred after being beaten in the chest.

According to IDF sources, the military believes that his death was a result of a heart attack, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Palestinian Ziad Abu Ein (C), Head of the Anti-wall and Settlement Commission, argues with Israeli soldiers as they prevent him from crossing to Al-Shuhada Street in the West Bank city of Hebron November 29, 2014.(Reuters / Mussa Qawasma)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned “the brutal assault that led to the martyrdom” of Abu Ein, labeling it “a barbaric act that cannot be tolerated or accepted,” the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

“We will take the necessary measures after the results of the investigation into the incident,” Abbas said. He later annoucned three days of morning for Abu Ein.

Riyad Al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister said that "Israel will pay for the "murder."

Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian official, announced the halt of security coordination with Israel following Abu Ein's death.

The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident and is awaiting an autopsy.

Abu Ein's death follows violent overnight clashes near Shilo, an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank located 28 miles (45km) north of Jerusalem. The clashes were reportedly sparked after settlers accused Palestinians of stealing a mare. Palestinians in turn said the settlers pelted their vehicles with cars. Troops from the Israeli Defense Forces were deployed to quell the violence.

Screenshot from RT video

Mahmoud Aloul, another leading member of the Fatah movement, told AP the incident occurred when he and Abu Ein joined dozens of protesters carrying olive tree saplings during a protest against land confiscations near the West Bank village of Turmus Aya.

Abu Sassaka, an assistant to Abu Ein who told Reuters he never left the minister's side, said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades at dozens of Palestinians as the approached the site where they intended to plant saplings, saying it was viewed as off-limits to Palestinian farmers.

After the marchers and soldiers began pushing each other, Sassaka told the agency the soldiers fired tear gas near the legs of the Palestinians.

He said one soldier hit Abu Ain in the chest with his rifle butt, an account confirmed by other witnesses.

Abu Ein was in charge of a Palestinian Authority department, whose work concerned Israeli settlements and the Israeli separation barrier. Previously, he served as deputy minister for prisoner affairs.

Abu Ein's death follows violent overnight clashes near Shilo, an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank located 28 miles (45km) north of Jerusalem. The clashes were reportedly sparked after settlers accused Palestinians of stealing a mare. Palestinians in turn said the settlers pelted their vehicles with cars. Troops from the Israeli Defense Forces were deployed to quell the violence.