Doctors disagree over Palestinian minister death

An honour guard surrounds the coffin of Palestinian Cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ain. Picture: Getty
An honour guard surrounds the coffin of Palestinian Cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ain. Picture: Getty
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Israeli and Palestinian ­pathologists have disagreed on whether a blow to the body or a bad heart was the main cause of death of a Palestinian Cabinet minister, who collapsed shortly after a confrontation with Israeli troops at a West Bank protest.

Palestinian doctors said Ziad Abu Ain died from a blow, not natural causes. Israeli doctors said the 55-year-old died from a blockage of the coronary artery due to arterial bleeding that could have been caused by stress.

Mr Abu Ain’s death, along with the Palestinian autopsy findings, could further inflame tensions.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said that Mr Abu Ain was the victim of a crime and of a “barbaric act” and ­decreed three days of mourning.

Mr Abu Ain’s funeral procession began at Mr Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters yesterday. Several thousand mourners gathered in the walled ­compound and said prayers over the minister’s coffin, which was draped in a Palestinian flag.

From there, the procession headed towards a nearby cemetery, with some in the crowd firing guns in the air. Anticipating protests over Mr Abu Ain’s death, the Israeli military sent troop reinforcements to the West Bank. Several dozen Palestinians throwing stones clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron.


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Mr Abu Ain died on Wednesday, shortly after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers. At one point, a member of Israel’s ­paramilitary border police grabbed Mr Abu Ain by the throat and pushed him. Troops also fired tear gas during the confrontation.

Several minutes after the scuffle, Mr Abu Ain collapsed, clutching his heart. He received first aid and was evacuated, but died on the way to hospital.

A post-mortem examination was conducted later on Wednesday by Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli pathologists.

Palestinian pathologist Saber Aloul, referring to preliminary findings, said that the “cause of death was a blow and not ­natural causes”.

He said that some of Mr Abu Ain’s front teeth were knocked out and dropped to the back of his mouth, and that regurgitated food entered the airway.

Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad said that “the ­results of the autopsy show that the ones who killed the ­martyr Ziad Abu Ain are the Israeli occupying forces”.

Mr Awad said two ­Jordanian pathologists also signed off on those findings, but that the ­Israeli doctors did not. The Israeli health ministry said the Israeli doctors did not sign ­because it was a preliminary, not a final report.

Israeli pathologists Chen Kugel and Maya Furman said Mr Abu Ain had a bad heart, ­including 80 per cent blockage by plaque in the blood vessels, and that this “caused him to be more sensitive to stress”.

They said in a statement that the coronary artery was blocked due to bleeding, while light bleeding and localised pressure were found on his neck.

The doctors said that they wanted to see the medical treatment report before reaching further conclusions.

The Palestinian pathologist also referred to bleeding in the coronary artery, saying it was a ­result of “anguish and stress”, but added that “death was a ­result of injury”.

A member of Mr Abbas’s Fatah movement, Mr Abu Ain had spent several years in Israeli prisons.


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