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Tears and Rage at Funeral for Palestinian Minister Who Died in Clash with Israeli Soldiers

Thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Ziad Abu Ein in Ramallah today, as three separate autopsies provided mixed results.
December 11, 2014, 2:25pm
Image via AFP/Getty

Thousands attended the funeral of Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein in the West Bank city of Ramallah today, after he died during clashes with the Israeli army on Wednesday.

The funeral procession began at the Ramallah Medical Complex around 10am before continuing on to the presidential compound, where Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials joined Abu Ein's family and thousands of mourners in paying their respects.

Honor Guards accompany the casket of Ziad Abu Ein outside the Palestinian Authority government headquarters in Ramallah. Photos by Dylan Collins.

After a brief midday prayer in front of Abu Ein's closed casket, mourners processed from Al-Muqata'a — the presidential compound and government headquarters — downhill to the nearby Martyrs Cemetery in the Al-Bireh district of Ramallah.

The procession was met by groups of masked gunmen belonging to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah-affiliated armed group, who proceeded to fire magazines of live ammo into the air while mourners chanted.

Members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed group associated with Fatah, fire into the air as the funeral procession heads towards the cemetery in Al-Bireh.

Abu Ein was a minister without a portfolio in the newly formed Palestinian unity government, in charge of the PA's Anti-Wall and Settlement commission.

He died on Wednesday during a peaceful demonstration protesting the expansion of the illegal Adei Ad settlement outpost on the outskirts of Ramallah. The minister and about 100 other demonstrators had gathered in the village of Turmusiya to symbolically plant olive trees in protest of the nearby outpost's expansion. Video from the protest shows Abu Ein getting choked by a soldier from the Israeli Border Police before collapsing to the ground.

The 55-year-old former PA deputy minister of prisoner affairs is the most senior Palestinian official to die during confrontations with Israeli forces in recent years.

An autopsy conducted late on Wednesday evening in the presence of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli pathologists revealed mixed results.

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Sabir al-Aloul, director of forensic medicine in the PA's Ministry of Health, told the the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency that a strike to Abu Ein's face broke his front teeth, forcing them to the back of his throat. Bruising was also reportedly found on both sides of his neck.

"After hearing the results of the post-mortem, the Palestinian government holds Israel fully responsible for the killing of Ziad Abu Ein," PA Spokesperon Ihab Bseiso told reporters on Thursday.

The Israeli and Jordanian pathologists, however, reportedly agreed upon a different diagnosis, that of a heart attack caused by stress, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

 A member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade fires into the air as the funeral procession heads towards the cemetery.

 Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon launched an official military investigation into the circumstances of Abu Ein's death, and expressed regret over his death. Maintaining stability regarding the security situation, said Yaalon, "is important for both sides, and we will continue to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority."

Abbas has announced three days of mourning in the Ramallah and Al-Bireh municipalities, and threatened to entirely cut off all security coordination with Israel.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the death of Abu Ein "another example of Israel's vicious and arrogant actions committed against the Palestinians," saying that the Palestinian leadership is weighing its response.

As Abu Ein's funeral took place in Ramallah, a group of protesters took to the streets of East Jerusalem to take part in a demonstration to mark his passing. These videos show police facing off with protesters in East Jerusalem's Salah al-Din Street.

Follow Dylan Collins on Twitter: @CollinsDYL