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Netanyahu to PA: We will investigate death of official

PM sends letter urging calm; Abbas warns all options on table; defense minister says security cooperation will continue, ‘expresses sorrow’ for death of Ziad Abu Ein

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon in the Knesset on December 8, 2014. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon in the Knesset on December 8, 2014. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday conveyed a personal message to the Palestinian Authority pledging that Israel would investigate the death of senior PA official Ziad Abu Ein, and urging restraint.

The prime minister’s confidant, Yitzhak Molho, who has in the past frequently served as a back-channel between Netanyahu and the PA, 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.

In the West Bank, Abbas told an emergency session of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah that all options were open for a Palestinian response to the death of Abu Ein.

“All options are open for discussion and implementation,” Abbas said amid speculation that security cooperation with Israel could be shelved.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon expressed his “sorrow” for Abu Ein’s death, and said the security coordination with the Palestinian Authority would continue.

Abu Ein died soon after clashing with IDF soldiers on Wednesday, prompting a senior PA member to say that the PA would halt security coordination with Israel and restart its unilateral bid for international recognition in response.

“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 added.

Abu Ein died en route to a Ramallah hospital Wednesday after he collapsed amid a confrontation with IDF troops in the West Bank. Palestinian witnesses said he choked on tear gas and was struck in the chest with a rifle butt by an IDF soldier. An Israeli witness said that Abu Ein was not hit by a rifle butt.

The IDF said it was “reviewing the circumstances of the participation of Ziad Abu Ein, and his later death.”

Officials from the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority agreed that an Israeli pathologist would join a Jordanian team conducting an autopsy on Abu Ein. The IDF said it had also proposed the Palestinians team up with Israel for a joint probe into the incident.

Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein after a scuffle with Israeli forces during a demonstration in the West Bank on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein after a scuffle with Israeli forces during a demonstration in the West Bank on Wednesday, December 10, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

A top Fatah leader, Jibril Rajoub, told The Times of Israel that the Palestinian Authority would cease all security coordination with Israel in the West Bank in the wake of Abu Ein’s death.

There was no immediate announcement of such a decision by Abbas’s office.

Rajoub said the PA had no choice but to respond given that Israel had “crossed a red line.” He said the cessation of security coordination was open-ended. The PA will also now immediately apply for membership in international organizations, Rajoub said, referring to the dozens of United Nations and other forums that the PA has long threatened to seek to join in unilateral moves opposed by Israel.

Abu Ein headed the PA government agency that campaigns against the security barrier and settlements and was considered a top official, though not technically a minister in Abbas’s government.

He was extradited from the US to Israel in 1981 over a 1979 boming in Tiberias that killed two Israeli teens. He was released in 1985 in a prisoner swap.

Mitch Ginsburg, Avi Issacharoff, Lazar Berman, Elhanan Miller, AP and AFP contributed to this report.

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