The Palestinian Authority on Thursday accused Israel of killing a senior official who died a day earlier in a confrontation with troops during a protest march in the West Bank.
“After hearing the results of the autopsy, the Palestinian government holds Israel fully responsible for the killing of Ziad Abu Ein,” government spokesman Ihab Bseiso told reporters.
Abu Ein, 55, died on Wednesday following a violent confrontation with Israeli soldiers near the city of Ramallah, in an incident that prompted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to threaten unspecified measures in response.
The IDF deployed reinforcements to the West Bank Thursday, anticipating clashes with Palestinians after Abu Ein’s funeral. The funeral proceeding began Thursday morning in Ramallah.
About 50 Palestinian demonstrators on Thursday hurled stones at security forces near the site where Abu Ein died on Wednesday, Ynet reported.
Earlier, hundreds of Palestinian protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF soldiers during two different demonstrations in and near the West Bank city of Hebron.
A Palestinian minister earlier said the autopsy, which was carried out by Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian doctors, had shown that Abu Ein was killed by the actions of Israeli troops.
“The reason for the death of Abu Ein was his being hit by occupation troops and because of the heavy use of tear gas,” Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein al-Sheikh told AFP.
Sheikh claimed Israeli forces had prevented Abu Ein from getting to hospital quickly enough to save his life.
An official Israeli Health Ministry statement disputed the claim, however, saying the autopsy showed Abu Ein had a pre-existing heart condition and may have died after suffering pressure to his neck during the scuffle with the soldiers
“[Abu Ein’s] death was caused by blockage of a coronary artery due to hemorrhaging beneath an arteriosclerotic plaque,” a health ministry statement read, further explaining that “the bleeding could have been induced by stress.”
The ministry added that the autopsy found light hemorrhaging and localized pressure around Abu Ein’s neck.
The statement went on to explain that Abu Ein “suffered from an ischemic heart disease,” and that “blood vessels in his heart were found to be over 80% blocked by plaque.”
The ministry stated that old scars in Abu Ein’s body indicated he had suffered from a myocardial infarction in the past, adding that “the poor condition of [Abu Ein’s] heart caused him to be more sensitive to stress.”
There was also evidence of an attempted resuscitation, the ministry said.
“His death was caused by a coronary occlusion, brought on by stress,” another Israel medical source who is familiar with the autopsy results told Reuters on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media. “The stress may have been brought on by him being grabbed by the neck.”
However, the ministry stated that only after receiving Abu Ein’s full medical report would it be able to reach a more comprehensive conclusion regarding his death.
Abu Ein, a senior official who headed the PA government agency that lobbies against the security barrier and settlements, died en route to a Ramallah hospital after collapsing during a clash with Israeli troops in the northern West Bank. Palestinian witnesses and an AFP photographer said he was struck by the butt of a rifle, though an Israeli reporter at the scene disputed that account.
An Israeli army doctor rushed to treat him before he was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The death was met by round condemnation in Ramallah, with the PA saying it may cut off security cooperation with Israel, and international calls for a swift investigation into the cause of his death.
Abu Ein was a former deputy Palestinian Authority minister.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday conveyed a personal message to the Palestinian Authority pledging that Israel would investigate the death of Abu Ein, and urging restraint.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also expressed his “sorrow” for Abu Ein’s death, and said the security coordination with the Palestinian Authority would continue.
“The incident during which Ziad Abu Ein died is being investigated by the IDF,” Ya’alon said. “We express sorrow over his death.”
“The security stability is important to both sides and we will continue the security coordination with the PA,” the defense minister said.
Earlier Wednesday, Abbas vowed to respond to what he called the “brutal assault” on Abu Ein and summoned an emergency session of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, amid speculation he could suspend longstanding security cooperation between the PA and Israel.
“All options are open for discussion and implementation,” he said.
Palestinian official Wasel Abu Yussef said the issue of cooperation was discussed at the session, but a decision on the matter was deferred until Friday.
“We discussed the immediate halt of security cooperation and a review of agreements made with the Israelis, particularly the accords on security,” he said.
AP contributed to this report.