The IDF bolstered security measures across the West Bank on Wednesday evening amid fears that tensions could escalate after a senior Palestinian official died en route to a Ramallah hospital earlier in the day following clashes with Israeli troops.
At the same time, Palestinian officials decided to put off a decision on how to respond to the death of Ziad Abu Ein, but warned that all options were on the table, including freezing vital security cooperation with Israel.
The funeral for Abu Ein is scheduled for Thursday in the West Bank and Israeli military officials fear it could break out into widespread protests and rioting.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered the transfer of two additional battalions as well as two Border Police companies to the area, Army Radio reported, citing fears of riots following the funeral, which is set to take place Thursday afternoon.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 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.
Following the emergency session, top Fatah leader Jibril Rajoub said the Palestinian Authority decided to suspended all security cooperation with Israel effective immediately, according to Israel Radio.
However, 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.
Abu Ein, who headed the PA government agency that lobbies against the security barrier and settlements, took part in a protest near Turmusaya, south of the Shiloh settlement in the northern West Bank. The demonstration later deteriorated into a scuffle with Israeli troops, during which Abu Ein inhaled tear gas and was hit by a soldier’s rifle butt, Palestinian witnesses said. An Israeli witness, however, claimed the Palestinian official had not been struck with the gun.
Abu Ein, 55, collapsed at the site and was evacuated by ambulance, but he died before reaching the hospital.
Footage from the demonstration showed Abu Ein lying on the ground and clutching his chest before his evacuation from the scene.
Israeli officials vowed to conduct an investigation into the incident amid international calls for a probe.
The IDF said an Israeli pathologist would join a Jordanian team conducting an autopsy on Abu Ein.
An Israeli army doctor treated Abu Ein before he was evacuated to hospital, AFP reported.
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.
The prime minister’s confidant, Yitzhak Molho, relayed the message, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The prime minister “noted the importance of calming the ground, and acting responsibly,” the statement said.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon 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.
AP contributed to this report.