The PLO and Fatah are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss suspending security cooperation with the IDF after Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists blamed the Israeli security forces for the death Wednesday of Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein.
In a preliminary report, Israeli pathologists said on Thursday that Abu Ein, who suffered from heart disease, died of a heart attack in the midst of a vocal confrontation with soldiers and border policemen outside the village of Turmus Aiya the day before.
President Reuven Rivlin expressed his condolences for the death of Abu Ein on Thursday and vowed that Israel would thoroughly investigate the incident.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post
Diplomatic Conference, Rivlin said, “Loss of life always brings pain,” adding that Israel “is committed to carry out a thorough investigation into the events of his death. Israel will act according to the rule of law.”
Amid fears that Abu Ein’s death could spark violence in the West Bank, Rivlin said that Israelis and Palestinians “have a duty to be responsible and encourage calm.”
On the streets of Ramallah, through which Abu Ein’s funeral procession passed, and in the chambers of the Palestinian government, people expressed their anger at Israel over Abu Ein’s death.
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abu Ein was “martyr number 2625 of Israeli crimes since last June.”
The head of the Palestinian Forensic Institute, Dr. Saber al-Aloul, announced that the minister had died as a result of violence and not from natural causes.
Aloul told reporters in Ramallah that Abu Ein had suffered from a narrowing of the coronary artery accompanied by hemorrhaging in the inner lining of the heart as a result of pressure that accompanied severe agony and distress.
The autopsy showed that some of Abu Ein’s front teeth had been broken, he said, adding that there were also bruises on his tongue, neck, and windpipe. Abu Ein had inhaled tear gas, another cause of his death, Aloul said.
“The death was the result of an injury and not a natural cause,” Aloul concluded.
Israeli pathologists said the altercation with the IDF was unrelated to Abu Ein’s death, which was solely the result of a heart attack.
Dr. Chen Kugel, head of the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine at Abu Kabir, and Dr. Mia Forman, who participated in the autopsy along with Palestinian and Jordanian pathologists, reported the results.
The death of the 55-year-old Abu Ein 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 Health Ministry said.
“There were signs of minor hemorrhaging in the muscles and of local pressure on the neck,” it 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.”
His fragile heart condition caused him to be more sensitive to stress, the ministry said. There were signs of the performance of resuscitation as well, the ministry added.
“One must wait for the report on the medical treatment he received to determine more solid conclusions in the matter."
A video shot before Abu Ein lost consciousness shows him gasping for breath and clutching his chest. But Palestinians have focused on the moments just before he fell to the ground during a shouting match with border policemen in which the minister was pushed down. At one point, a border policeman can be seen shoving him and briefly grasping his neck.
The policeman later told Channel 2 Abu Ein was with Palestinians who were very close to an IDF jeep and that security forces were authorized in such instances to shoot at their legs, but instead the forces chose to physically block their path.
The officer’s parents told Channel 2 that they now fear for their son’s life, because his photograph was widely circulated with his hands on Abu Ein’s neck.
Abu Ein had participated in a demonstration outside the Palestinian village of Turmus Aiya to mark International Human Rights Day, in which participants planned to plant olive trees.
The IDF had authorized the demonstration but stepped in when participants moved close to the settlement outpost of Adei Ad. A shouting match broke out between IDF soldiers and Abu Ein, which then turned physical, and the IDF also fired a number of stun grenades and tear gas canisters.
Abu Ein was the head of the PLO’s Commission Against The Separation Wall And Settlements.
He was a wellknown advocate of nonviolent resistance, but in 1982 he was sentenced to life in prison for murder by an Israeli court for his role in a bombing that killed two Israeli teenagers in Tiberias in 1979. He was released in 1985 as part of the Ahmed Jibril prisoner swap.
The Palestinian leadership is scheduled to discuss in its meeting the steps it plans to take to protest Abu Ein’s death, including the possibility of halting security coordination with Israel. Some senior Fatah officials claimed on Wednesday that the Palestinian leadership had already decided on that step. However, no official statement has been issued thus far by the Palestinian leadership confirming the claims.
Erekat said that the Palestinian leadership would also discuss proceeding with its statehood bid plan at the UN Security Council, which calls for setting a timeline for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre- 1967 lines.
Erekat told Sky News TV that the Palestinians would also sign the Rome Statute, which enables them to join the International Criminal Court.
At a Wednesday meeting, Palestinian leaders discussed presenting the Palestinian statehood plan to the Security Council and joining several international organizations and treaties, including the ICC.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting Palestinians against Israel by blaming the IDF for Abu Ein’s death.
Liberman issued a statement saying that the transparent autopsy conducted at the forensics institute in the presence of representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, and Israel determined that he died of a heart attack.
“This shows that the charges Abu Mazen [Abbas] and the heads of the Palestinians leveled against Israel were baseless and meant to incite the Palestinian public,” he said.
“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.
According to Liberman, “the contemptible charges of excessive force made by the representatives of the Palestinian government – thereby making ‘Israel responsible for murder’ – attest only to the motivations of the Palestinian inciters who are doing everything to exacerbate the conflict.”