Dispute Over Autopsy Findings in Death of Minister

RAMALLAH (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Israeli and Palestinian officials issued conflicting accounts on Thursday over the results of an autopsy on a Palestinian minister who died after an altercation with an Israeli policeman at a protest on Wednesday.

The Israeli Health Ministry said on Thursday that Dr. Chen Kugel, head of the Forensic Institute at Abu Kabir in Tel Aviv, and Dr. Mia Forman participated in the autopsy along with Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists.

The death of the minister was caused by the “blockage of the main coronary arteries that deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle caused by hemorrhaging under the plaque layer. The change in the layer (bleeding) can be caused by stress,” the ministry said.

“The deceased suffered from ischemic heart disease, and in his coronary arteries, there were layers of plaque that blocked more than 80 percent of the vessels. There were also old scars that showed the deceased suffered from coronary blockages in the past.” The ministry said his fragile heart condition caused him to be more sensitive to stress, the report said.

But a senior Palestinian official, Hussein al-Sheikh, said that Jordanian and Palestinian doctors involved in the late night examination of the body of the 55-year-old convicted terrorist had died from “being struck, inhaling tear gas and a delay in providing medical attention.”

Israel has pledged a full investigation and invited the Palestinian and Jordanians to participate in the autopsy.

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 Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday announced three days of mourning and suspended security coordination with Israel.

Several thousand mourners attended Abu Ein’s funeral, which began at Abbas’ Ramallah headquarters Thursday. From there, the procession headed toward a nearby cemetery, with some in the crowd shooting in the air.

Anticipating Palestinian rioting after the incident, the Israeli military sent troop reinforcements to Yehudah and Shomron.

Outside Maaras Hamachpelah in Chevron on Thursday, scores of Palestinians attacked an IDF post with stones and burning tires. Security forces responded with riot control methods.

There were also protests near Ramallah and, in Turmus Iya, where the minister died, about 50 Palestinians gathered to protest.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to “incite” the Palestinians by claiming that Israel killed PA Minister Ziad Abu Ein.

Lieberman said that the transparent autopsy showed that he died of a heart attack.

“Israel and the IDF have proven time after time that despite having to deal with violent activity — organized violence and difficult situations that no other democracy in the world has to deal with — they do it in the best way possible,” he said.