“Move back, move back!” an IDF officer yelled at Palestinian Authority official Ziad Abu Ein.
The tall man with a tan jacket and a keffiyeh around his neck had participated in a demonstration near the village of Turmus Aiya, where participants intended to plant olive trees.
Wednesday’s demonstration had been planned by the PLO’s Commission Against the Separation Wall and Settlements, headed by Abu Ein.
It was held between Route 60 and the Alon Road, near the outpost of Adei Ad.
Demonstrators had demanded to be able to plant trees some 30 meters away from Adei Ad. Twenty minutes into the demonstration, Abu Ein arrived and took part, an officer said.
“We permitted the demonstration, but set a line that can’t be crossed, to prevent it from spilling into Adei Ad,” the officer said. “We informed the demonstrators of this line,” he added.
A minor confrontation ensued, the officer continued, describing it as “routine for this kind of demonstration.
From this point onward, the level of friction involving Abu Ein is unclear. We are still investigating the circumstances,” the officer said.
Soldiers from a Home Front Command battalion and Border Police officers held back the protesters and fired stun grenades and a few tear gas canisters, he stated.
Video footage from the scene, however, shows officers pushing the protesters back. Abu Ein and officers can be seen shouting at each other, and at one point shoving each other. For a brief second, one officer had his hand around Abu Ein’s neck.
The events after that are unclear, as video footage shows Abu Ein on the ground clutching his chest. But reports vary, with some witnesses stating that the minister was pushed and others believing he had a heart attack and fell.
“They [officers] then saw a person collapsing. We see on footage from the incident a push [delivered by a border policeman],” the officer said, adding, “I say this with reservation, as we are still investigating it.”
Abu Ein is seen grabbing the left side of his chest and collapsing, the officer said. IDF medics offered assistance, before Palestinians decided to evacuate Abu Ein to a Ramallah hospital, where he died.
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