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Palestinians, Israelis differ on PA minister's cause of death

Israel says PA minister died of 'coronary artery blockage' but Palestinians point to excessive amounts of teargas, and delays to reach hospital

An Israeli spokesman said Thursday that the death of a Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein one day earlier had come about as the result of a blocked coronary artery, a finding that was rejected by Palestinian officials.

"Israel's Ministry of Health report on Ziad Abu Ein's autopsy: He suffered from a severe heart disease & died from blockage of a coronary artery," Ofir Gendleman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter.

Abu Ein, who had been in charge of the Israeli settlements file at the Palestine Liberation Organization, died Wednesday when Israeli troops dispersed an anti-occupation demonstration – in which he had been taking part –  in the northern West Bank town of Turmus Ayya.

However, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hassan al-Sheikh, citing the findings of a group of Arab doctors, said Thursday that Abu Ein had died after being beaten by Israeli troops, exposed to excessive amounts of teargas, and prevented by the Israeli army from reaching a hospital in a timely manner.

"The forensic report [by independent Arab doctors] is an essential piece of evidence implicating Israel [in Abu Ein's death]," al-Sheikh said following an autopsy conducted on Wednesday evening.

He added that the Palestinian authorities had conducted the autopsy in an East Jerusalem university hospital after having refused to allow an Israeli medical centre to perform the procedure.

He added, however, that an Israeli doctor had also attended the autopsy, stressing that the procedure had been carried out "professionally."

On Thursday afternoon, a military funeral was held for Abu Ein.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, has described the Israeli attack on the demonstration in which Abu Ein had been taking part as "barbaric," declaring a three-day mourning period for the slain official.

Hamas had earlier called on the PA to end their security cooperation with Israel.

"The time has come to rally all our forces in facing the criminal Zionist occupation and stop all sorts of security coordination with the occupation," the group's spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

The Israeli army, meanwhile, has since pledged to "review" the circumstances of Abu Ein's participation in the protest and his subsequent death.

The UN, US and EU on Wednesday called for a swift investigation into the minister's death.

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