Ziad Abu Ein, a Palestinian minister, has died after clashes with Israeli forces, reportedly due to inhaling large amounts of tear gas in the occupied West Bank, sources told Al Jazeera.
Abu Ein, who was the head of the Anti-Wall and Settlement Commission, died in Ramallah Hospital on Wednesday after inhaling the gas at a protest against the separation barrier near the village of Turmusayya, northeast of Ramallah.
In addition to inhaling tear gas, Abu Ein, 55, was hit in the chest by Isreali soldiers, according to a Palestine TV reporter who was at the scene.
Witnesses, including an Israeli journalist and a Reuters news agency photographer, also said he was assaulted by the soldiers during the protest.
Others said he was headbutted and then collapsed.
Activists said they were planting olive trees by the illegal settlement of Adei Ad when the soldiers attacked them and fired large amounts of tear gas at the group.
Pictures of Abu Ein, who is a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, showing him knocked out and on the ground quickly circulated on social media sites.
Abbas also said “all necessary steps” will be taken after an investigation into Abu Ein’s death is carried out.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas quickly condemned the death of Abu Ein calling it a “barbaric act which cannot be tolerated”.
Abu Ein’s body will be undergoing an autopsy either on Wednesday or Thurday, sources told Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from West Jerusalem, said tensions had been running high in Israel and the Palestinian territories, with consistent protests in the West Bank in the past several weeks.Jibril Rajoub, senior Palestine security adviser, told Al Jazeera the Palestinian Authority had decided to suspend all security coordination with Israel following Abu Ein’s death, which he called a “premeditated murder”.
“The fact that a member of the government has died in these protests will further inflame the situation,” he said.
Speaking shortly before his death, the minister told reporters why he was at the protest. “This is the army of the occupation and they are stopping Palestinians from acting on their rights. We came to our Palestinian land to plant trees and olive trees. They attacked us immediately without anyone throwing a stone or attacking them. This is a terrorist occupying army that stops Palestinians from enacting on their rights,” Abu Ein said.
Abu Ein, a father of four, previously held the position of deputy minister of prisoners’ affairs. As a former detainee himself, he was sentenced to life in prison by Israel in 1982 but was released in a prisoner swap in 1985.
Ramallah and El Bireh governorate have announced three days of mourning over Abu Ein’s death. Al Jazeera