A member of the Palestinian Authority died on Wednesday shortly after an altercation with Israeli border police during a protest demonstration against Israeli construction in the village of Turmusiya, near Ramallah.
Ziad Abu Ein, 55, a convicted terrorist who became a minister without portfolio, died a short time after an argument with a border policeman.
It was not clear what caused his death. According to IDF sources, the military initially believed that his death was the result of a heart attack. Video footage of the scene reportedly shows Ziad kneeling down and grasping the left side of his chest before collapsing. He died on the way to hospital.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Arabic language spokesman said the matter was being investigated.
Later, in the evening, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon issued a statement: “The event in which Ziad Abu Ein died is under investigation by the IDF. We express sorrow over his death. We have proposed a joint investigation to the Palestinian Authority and that a joint autopsy is carried out on Abu Ein’s body. Security stability is important to both sides and we will continue coordination with the PA.”
Nevertheless, Palestinian leaders immediately blamed Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called it “a barbaric act which we cannot be silent about or accept.” Abbas announced three days of national mourning and said he would take “necessary steps” after an investigation.
Abu Ein was convicted of killing two young Israelis in a bomb attack in 1979 and released as part of a prisoner swap in 1985.
On Wednesday, he and around 100 foreign and Palestinian activists were on their way to plant trees near the Jewish community of Adi Ad as part of a regular protest.
Palestinians in Ramallah closed shops in protest at the minister’s death and youths threw stones at Israeli soldiers guarding a Jewish community outside the city, Palestinian security sources said.
Palestinian officials indicated that cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli security forces in Yehudah and Shomron could be suspended as a result of the incident.