The UN Security Council said Israel and the Palestinians must exercise “maximum restraint” and conduct a “swift and transparent investigation” into the death of a senior Palestinian official on Wednesday after a clash with IDF troops in the West Bank.
In a statement released Friday night, the 15-member body “expressed [its] sorrow at the death” and “condolences to the family of Minister Ziad Abu Ein, the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.”
The incident has triggered protests and clashes in the West Bank, as the Palestinian leadership has blamed Israel for “killing” the 55-year-old official. Pathologists disagree on the main cause of his death, with Palestinian doctors saying the 55-year-old cabinet minister died from a blow to the body and Israeli doctors saying he had a heart attack.
Israel has proposed a joint investigation which the Security Council said it acknowledged.
“Council members took note of the willingness of the Government of Israel to conduct a joint investigation into the incident,” the statement read.
The Security Council “encouraged the parties to ensure that a swift and transparent investigation is undertaken” and “called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from steps that could further destabilize the situation.”
The Security Council joins the US, UK, and EU in calling for the probe.
On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement saying he was “deeply saddened” by the “brutal death” of Abu Ein, a turn of phrase that was absent from the UNSC statement.
The Palestinians had penned a letter to the UN chief, following the death, which included a call for the Security Council to publicly condemn the incident.
Earlier Friday, US Secretary John Kerry called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to express his condolences for the death.
He was set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Rome on Monday to discuss an imminent Palestinian bid to the Security Council for the a draft resolution recognizing a Palestinian state and urging an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines within a time-frame of two years.
The PA has indicated it will move on the initiative before the head of the year, buoyed by a spate of recognitions, albeit symbolic, in several European parliaments, including Ireland, Spain, France and Britain.
Kerry told reporters Friday that he hoped to head off a showdown at the United Nations over the Palestinian statehood bid in meetings next week in Europe.
The UN push comes amid rising tensions over the past several months, including the latest incident in which the senior Palestinian official died.
Abu Ein was pronounced dead following a march on Wednesday against settlements by about 300 Palestinians who intended to plant olive trees as a symbolic act.
A confrontation between several demonstrators, including Abu Ein, and Israeli soldiers occurred after protesters disobeyed orders and got physical with several of the security forces.
Palestinian witnesses said Abu Ein, inhaled tear gas and was hit by a soldier’s rifle butt, but an Israeli witness claimed Abu Ein had not been physically struck with a weapon.
Abu Ein, later removed from the action, was videotaped grasping his chest and soon after fell unconscious. Israeli army medical personnel attended to Abu Ein and were unsuccessful in resuscitating him.