Death of PA minister sparks chaos fears


Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority remains in the balance in the wake of the death of a Palestinian minister following an altercation with Israeli police.

Ziad Abu Ein, 55, who had been put in charge of issues related to settlements and the separation barrier by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, had been leading a demonstration against the settler outpost of Amei Ad near Ramallah when border policemen tried to push them back.

During the clash, Mr Abu Ein was reported to have inhaled tear gas, and at one point his neck was grabbed by a police officer.

Palestinian witnesses claimed he was also struck in the head by a rifle butt and that a tear-gas canister hit him in the chest. Footage shows him walking around unhurt after the confrontation, but a few minutes later he collapsed and, shortly after that, he died. He was reported to be suffering from a heart condition and diabetes.

Mr Abu Ein, a veteran Fatah leader, was extradited from the US in 1981 and convicted by Israel as a member of the terror cell that planted a bomb in Tiberias in 1979 which killed Israeli teenagers Boaz Lahav and David Lankry. In 1985, he was released as part of the prisoner exchange deal.

Yaalon said that Israel regretted Abu Ein's death, and proposed a joint probe

Mr Abbas called his death "a barbaric act that cannot be tolerated or accepted", and said that the Palestinian Authority "will take the necessary measures after the results of the investigation into the incident".

An autopsy is to be carried out in Ramallah with the participation of an Israeli pathologist, but the Palestinian Authority is already under pressure to end the security coordination with Israel. Hamas in Gaza demanded this and former Fatah security chief Jibril Rajoub said such a decision had already been taken. Mr Rajoub, however, has no official position within the Palestinian Authority other than president of the Palestinian Football Association, and Israeli security sources said they had received no such notification from their Palestinian counterparts.

The IDF said it was "reviewing the circumstances" of Mr Abu Zein's death and proposed a joint investigation with the Palestinians.

The incident came after two of weeks of relative calm. While Mr Abbas called on the Palestinian pubic to attend Mr Abu Zein's funeral on Thursday, the Israeli assessment was that the PA leader will not end security coordination, since he is still interested in maintaining calm in the West Bank. Israel also believes Mr Abbas's priority is his initiative to ask UN to unilaterally set a deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It is unclear, however, whether Mr Abbas will be able to withstand the pressure to end all cooperation with Israel and prevent a new round of violence, perhaps even a third intifada.

As Israel's security forces braced for renewed clashes, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said: "The incident in which Ziya Abu Ein died is being investigated by the IDF. We regret his death. We offered the Palestinian Authority to hold a joint investigation and post-mortem. The security stability is important for both sides and we will continue coordinating with the Palestinian Authority."

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