You are here

Palestinian minister dies after confrontation with Israeli forces

By Reuters - Dec 10,2014 - Last updated at Dec 10,2014

TURMUSIYA, West Bank — A Palestinian minister died on Wednesday shortly after an Israeli security officer shoved and grabbed him by the throat during a protest in the West Bank, an incident Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described as barbaric.

Ziad Abu Ein, 55, a minister without portfolio, was among scores of Palestinian and foreign activists who were confronted at an Israeli checkpoint while heading to a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the occupied territory.

Around 30 Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades at the group and a scuffle ensued in which an officer pushed Abu Ein and grabbed his neck firmly with one hand. Footage of the incident and pictures taken by Reuters do not show Abu Ein responding with any violence.

Minutes later the minister began to look faint and fell to the ground clasping his chest. He died on his way to hospital.

It was not clear what caused his death. An autopsy is being carried out with Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian pathologists present, and the results were expected later on Wednesday.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians, following months of violent unrest in occupied Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Hoping to head off any escalation as well as a possible erosion of security cooperation with Abbas’ forces, Israel reinforced troops in the West Bank. It also issued an apology.

“We are sorry about his [Abu Ein’s] death,” Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement. He said Israel was investigating the incident as well as taking part in the autopsy. “Security stability is important for both sides and we will continue coordinating with the Palestinian Authority.”




Clashes broke out in a refugee camp near Ramallah and an Israeli soldier shot and critically wounded a Palestinian youth, Palestinian medics said. Ramallah shops were closed for the day in protest at the minister’s death.

Israel’s army spokesperson said the march towards the settlement involved “approximately 200 rioters” and was stopped by its forces using “riot dispersal means”. Footage shows the marchers moving peacefully towards the demonstration.

Abbas described the incident as “a barbaric act which we cannot be silent about or accept”. He announced three days of national mourning and said “necessary steps” would be taken after an investigation, but did not elaborate on whether security ties with Israel would be affected.

Abu Ein, who was convicted of killing two young Israelis in a bomb attack in 1979 and released as part of a prisoner swap in 1985, was a vocal opponent of Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of an independent state together with Gaza and East Jerusalem.

A leader of Palestinian civil society groups for decades, Abu Ein was a regular attendee of non-violent protests and was appointed this year to head a government-backed protest group, the Committee to Resist Settlements and the Wall.

Shortly before his death, Abu Ein spoke to television reporters.

“This is the terrorism of the occupation, this is a terrorist army, practising its terrorism on the Palestinian people,” he told the official Palestine TV. “We came to plant trees on Palestinian land, and they launch into an attack on us from the first moment. Nobody threw a single stone.”

168 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.