Israeli and Palestinian medical officials seemed to agree on the results of the autopsy of the Palestinian minister who died after being shoved and grabbed by the neck by an Israeli policeman at a West Bank protest, but issued conflicting interpretations Thursday.
Abu Ein, a Palestinian Authority cabinet minister, collapsed and died in the afternoon hours of Wednesday. Now a Palestinian-led autopsy claims his cause of death was a stress-induced heart attack.
The report, being led by Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli pathologists, said the death was caused by blockage in the coronary artery, and said there were signs of light internal bleeding and localized pressure on the neck, at least according to the Israeli version of the report published by the Health Minixtry
The deceased suffered from heart disease, and there was evidence that plaque buildup were clogging more than 80% of his blood vessels, as well as signs that he had suffered heart attacks in the past.
The Palestinian government issued a statement after its meeting, blaming Israel for the "murder" of Abu Ein. "After publication of the results, we can say that Israel is responsible for the murder of Abu Ein," the government said.
Initially, Hussein al-Sheikh, a top Palestinian official, told Reuters that Jordanian and Palestinian doctors involved in the late night examination of the body said Ziad Abu Ein, 55, had died from being struck, inhaling tear gas and not receiving prompt medical attention.
However, Dr. Hen Kugel, the Israeli doctor who took part in the autopsy, told Ynet that the report was not final and that they were awaiting on the return of some tests, however "we know what happended there – he died from a heart attack. He had significant blockage of the arteries and his heart was in bad shape. When they grabbed his neck it caused massive stress which led to bleeding and then full blockage which is what killed him."
"There is no disagreement with the Palestinians about this, the only thing we still need to find out about is wounding to his front teeth, tongue and windpipe. These could be a result of resuscitation attempts or an attack as the Palestinians claim, but it doesn’t matter, he died because of his heart and stress," Dr. Kugel said.
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Abu Ain's funeral took place Thursday in the West Bank city of Ramallah and Israel has reinforced its forces in the area with two battalions of soldiers and two companies of border police in preparation.
Over 50 Palestinians rioted in Turmus Iya in the West Bank, where Abu's Ein altercation with IDF took place, as hundreds attended his funeral in Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas laid a reef on his coffin.
Abbas called Abu Ain the victim of a "clear crime" and a "barbaric act Wednesday." He decreed three days of mourning for the minister, whose portfolio included organizing protests against Israeli settlements and the West Bank separation barrier.
Abbas held up a photo of the Israeli officer grabbing Abu Ain's throat. Palestinians circulated the photo on social media under the hashtag #ICantBreathe – drawing a link to the chokehold killing of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in New York.
At the time of the event, palestinian sources claimed the minister, who reportedly suffered from an unspecified illness and which could have played a role in his death, had been hit in the chest by the butt of a soldier's gun, and then collapsed. However the circumstances of his death remain unclear, and the possibility is being examined that the minister suffered a heart attack.
A video from the incident shows Abu Ein sat on the ground after the clash, holding his chest – however, the reason why is still unclear. Palestinians claim that he had inhaled tear gas. The video is then cut off and footage from moments before his collapse are shown, in which Abu Ein gets up and walks towards an IDF jeep, where a confrontation develops between him and one of the soldiers.
Abu Ein is later heard shouting in Arabic, "this is the terrorism of the occupation, this is a terrorist army, practicing its terrorism on the Palestinian people," he told the official Palestine TV. "We came to plant trees on Palestinian land, and they launch into an attack on us from the first moment. Nobody threw a single stone."
A military source said that Abu Ein had organized the protest, and that according to the plan, the demonstrators were to plant trees near Adei Ad, an Israeli outpost in the West Bank.
"Abu Ein arrived 20 minutes before the protest, in which the forces set up a line to prevent a confrontation. At some point a minor confrontation began. Suddenly we understood that someone had collapsed, the same man shown in the videos," the source said, adding that a paramedic had offered to help him.
The IDF source stated that the issue is still under investigation, and that there is a need to question all soldiers involved in the incident.
Dr. Itay Gal, Itamar Eichner and the Associated Press contributed to this report