World Bulletin/News Desk
Thousands of mourners turned out on Thursday for a Palestinian state funeral for a minister who died after being grabbed by the neck by an Israeli policeman at a West Bank protest, an incident that has raised tensions with Israel.
To the sounds of drums and bagpipes, Ziad Abu Ein's Palestinian flag-draped coffin was carried by pallbearers in military uniform along a red carpet at the presidential compound in the city of Ramallah.
The funeral procession then streamed through the streets to a cemetery as people fired in the air. Crowds of men in leather jackets and black-and-white chequered scarves used mobile phones to film the funeral on a cold but sunny afternoon.
"We're ready to sacrifice our lives for the martyr [Abu Ein]," mourners chanted as they carried Abu Ein's body to the Martyrs' Cemetery in the city of Al-Bireh near Ramallah.
His death on Wednesday came at a time of heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians following months of violent unrest in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
He had been among about 100 people protesting against a Jewish settlement by planting olive trees in a village when Israeli soldiers and border policemen fired tear gas and sound grenades
A scuffle ensued in which a border policeman pushed Abu Ein and grabbed his neck with one hand. Footage of the incident and pictures taken by Reuters do not show Abu Ein responding with any violence.
Minutes later the minister began to look faint and fell to the ground, clasping his chest. He died on his way to hospital. Shortly before his death, Abu Ein spoke to television reporters, sounding hoarse and short of breath.
Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hassan al-Sheikh, citing the findings of a delegation 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 the Arab doctors] is an essential piece of evidence implicating Israel [in Abu Ein's death]," al-Sheikh said following an autopsy conducted Wednesday evening.
However, an Israeli spokesman said Thursday that Abu Ein's death had been the result of a blocked coronary artery.
Palestinian officials in the West Bank have indicated they may call off security coordination with Israel following the incident, though that step appeared unlikely.
"This is a criminal act," said Samir Tamim, a merchant who attended the funeral.
The Palestinian Authority's Abbas, for his part, 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.
The Israeli army, meanwhile, has since pledged to conduct a "review" of the circumstances of Abu Ein's participation in the protest and his subsequent death.Last Mod: 13 Aralık 2014, 12:44