NEW: Autopsy report released by Israel says Ziyad Abu Ein died from blocked artery
A Palestinian doctor says he choked on vomit brought on by tear gas inhalation
A Palestinian official says Ziyad Abu Ein was taking part in nonviolent protests
Israel's Netanyahu sends his envoy to the Palestinian Authority, vows to investigate
A senior Palestinian Authority official died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli troops, prompting President Mahmoud Abbas to halt security coordination with Israel, according to Palestinian officials.
Ziyad Abu Ein died after clashes with Israeli soldiers midday Wednesday in the Palestinian village of Turmusaya, which is northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, longtime chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement. Abu Ein – a minister in Abbas’ Fatah party and head of the Committee to Resist the Wall and Settlements – was there participating in nonviolent demonstrations to mark international Human Rights Day, according to Erakat’s statement.
There were varying reports of exactly how Abu Ein died, including what role – if any – Israeli authorities played in it.
Pictures from various news agencies depict an Israeli soldier with his hands to Abu Ein’s neck, followed by another showing him on the ground. The official Palestinian news agency WAFA, meanwhile, reported that the Palestinian official lost consciousness after he inhaled tear gas and an Israeli soldier hit him in the chest.
“The Israeli soldiers called Abu Ein by name and seemed to be focused on him,” witness Kamal Abu Safaka told CNN. “There was a lot of pushing, kicking and punching by the soldiers. … When Abu Ein tried to intercede, they hit him on the chest with a rifle butt and grabbed him by the throat and pushed him back and then threw a large amount of tear gas and stun grenades.”
Dr. Ahmed Bitawi, the director of the Ramallah hospital that inspected Abu Ein’s body, said he died from asphyxiation after choking on vomit brought on by tear gas inhalation.
But a preliminary autopsy report released by the Israeli government indicated that Abu Ein’s death was caused by a blockage of the coronary artery due to hemorrhaging. The bleeding could have been caused by stress, the report said, suggesting the poor condition of Abu Ein’s heart caused him to be more sensitive to stress.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message – via his special envoy Yitzhak Molcho – to Palestinian Authority officials telling them that Israel will investigate the death, according to a government statement.
“The Prime Minister, who has been holding security consultations throughout the day, pointed to the need to calm the situation and act responsibly,” the statement said.
The Israeli military said in a statement that the incident happened after its “forces halted the progress of (about 200) rioters into the civilian community of Abed-Ad using riot dispersal means.”
“The IDF is reviewing the circumstances of the participation of Ziyad Abu Ein and his later death,” the Israeli military said, noting an Israeli pathologist will join a group of pathologists from Jordan for an examination. “… Additionally, a proposal has been made to the Palestinians to establish a joint investigation team to review the incident.”
Jordanian Minister of Information Mohammed Al-Momani said that two forensic doctors were sent to the West Bank “to help in determining the cause of (Abu Ein’s) death” in response “to a Palestinian request.”
Declaring three days of mourning, Abbas slammed Abu Ein’s death as an “intolerable barbaric act,” according to WAFA.
“What happened is a crime by all means, we cannot sit idle and silent (after) this crime,” he said later on Palestinian television. “For that, this leadership is meeting now to decide what it wants, and I say honestly all options are open for discussion and for implementation. … We don’t have any other solutions.”
Hanan Ashrawi, an executive member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Abbas also froze security coordination with Israel. Jibril Rajoub, a member of Fatah’s central committee, confirmed this development.
A meeting of PLO representatives Wednesday night about the day’s development’s was “heated,” Ashrawi said. One of the options discussed at the session was taking the Palestinian case to the U.N. Security Council. There will be another meeting Friday.
Ashrawi is among the Palestinians outraged by the minister’s death, demanding “an international and impartial investigation.”
“This is a deliberate and willful act of murder and criminality,” she said.
CNN’s Michael Schwartz, Greg Botelho, Samira Said and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.