Palestinian official killed in West Bank protest

Later on Wednesday, the EU foreign affairs head demanded an ‘immediate’ inquiry into the official’s death

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A Palestinian official in charge of the settlement portfolio was killed in a West Bank protest on Wednesday, according to Reuters news agency.

Ziad Abu Ein died shortly after being hit and shoved by Israeli soldiers during the protest in the occupied West Bank, a Reuters photographer who witnessed the incident and a medic said.

Following Abu Ein’s death, Palestinian authorities said they cut off security cooperation with Israel, a Fatah official told Al Arabiya News Channel.

Palestinian and Israeli authorities usually meet and exchange information on humanitarian and security affairs, which entails coordination of passage of medical aid, issuance of work permits for Palestinians working in Israeli-controlled areas in addition to facilitating the travel of Palestinian officials.

About 100 foreign and Palestinian activists with the Committee to Resist Settlements and the Wall, the government-run protest organisation that Abu Ein headed, were on their way to plant trees and protest near an Israeli settlement when they were stopped at an improvised checkpoint, witnesses said.

A group of around 15 Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at the protesters and began scuffling with them.

Ziad Abu Ein was rushed by ambulance from the scene in the village of Turmusiya, but died en route to the nearby Palestinian city of Ramallah.

Abu Ein, who was in charge of dealing with the issue of Israeli settlements within the Palestinian Authority, "was martyred after being beaten in the chest," Ahmed Bitawi, the director of the Ramallah hospital, told Agence France-Presse.

Mahmoud Aloul, a leading member of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, said he and Abu Ain had been among dozens of protesters carrying olive tree saplings during a protest against land confiscations when Israeli troops fired tear gas at them.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned “the brutal assault that led to the martyrdom” of Abu Ein, calling it “a barbaric act that cannot be tolerated or accepted,” official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

“We will take the necessary measures after the results of the investigation into the incident,” Abbas said.

Later on Wednesday, EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini demanded an “immediate” inquiry into the death of the official.

“Reports of excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces are extremely worrying: I call for an immediate, independent investigation into... Abu Ein’s death,” she said in a statement.

Following the incident, Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian official, announced the halt of security coordination with Israel.

The Israeli military said it is looking into the report and had no immediate comment.

Abu Ain headed a Palestinian Authority department dealing with Israeli settlements and the Israeli separation barrier, and had the rank of Cabinet member.

Previously, he served as deputy minister for prisoner affairs.

[With Reuters and AFP]