Israel and Palestine have presented different claims over the cause of death of a Palestinian minister who died during a clash with Israeli forces. A Palestinian medic said Ziad Abu Ain died from a blow to his body.
Palestinian officials said Thursday that the 55-year-old minister without a portfolio was "killed" by Israeli soldiers.
"After hearing the results of the post-modern, the Palestinian government holds Israel fully responsible for the killing of Ziad Abu Ain," Ihab Bseiso, a Palestinian government spokesman, told the media.
Earlier, a Palestinian pathologist said the autopsy report showed the minister did not die of natural causes. Palestinian officials also said that the Israeli forces prevented Abu Ain from being taken to hospital quickly enough to save his life.
Israeli officials, who also participated in the autopsy, refuted the Palestinian claims. An Israeli doctor told the news agency DPA that Abu Ain died of a "hemorrhage underneath an atherosclerotic plaque in the coronary vessel" which caused a heart attack.
Chen Kugel, head of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine near Tel Avis, said "this kind of heart attack is usually caused by stress," adding that the Palestinian minister was a heart patient with 80 percent clogged arteries.
Protest and scuffle
Witnesses said Wednesday the confrontation between Palestinian activists and Israeli troops began when dozens of protesters, including Abu Ain, headed to agricultural land near the village of Turmus Aya to plant olive tree saplings on fields as a protest against Israel's land confiscations. The area is close to an Israeli settlers' outpost.
Mahmoud Aloul, Fatah's senior member, told the news agency Associated Press on Wednesday that as the Palestinians marched towards the farmland, Israeli security forces tried to stop them and fired tear gas. He said a gas canister hit the minister.
Some sources also said the minister got involved in a scuffle with an Israeli soldier. Salah Hawajeh, a marcher, claimed that an Israeli officer head-butted Abu Ain and then hit him in the chest with his rifle.
The Palestinian minister lost consciousness and was taken to hospital where he died of heart failure, said Fatah official Qadoura Faris.
Abu Ain, a minister responsible for dealing with Israeli settlements and the West Bank security barrier, had previously served as deputy minister for prisoner affairs.
Protesters throw rocks, young boy injured
In response to the death of Ziad Abu Ain, dozens of Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers near Ramallah.
A 12-year-old boy was subsequently seriously injured after he was hit in the head by a rubber bullet.
Israel put its security forces on high alert in flashpoint sites throughout the occupied territory.
UN calls for 'maximum restraint'
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on all sides on Wednesday to "exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation," his spokesman said. He also urged authorities to "conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the circumstances of the brutal death."
Neighboring Jordan said the incident was "a crime" and denounced "clear evidence of human rights violations by the Israeli army."
Federica Mogherini, head of the EU's foreign affairs, called for an "immediate, independent" inquiry and voiced great concern over reports of brutality on the part of Israeli forces, saying they were "extremely worrying."
shs/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)