The Swiss foreign ministry has expressed “profound dismay” at the death of Palestinian cabinet member Ziad Abu Ein after he and other protesters scuffled with Israeli troops near a West Bank village.
In a statement, the ministry praised the commitment of Abu Ein, a member of the Geneva Initiativeexternal link, to working towards a “fair and durable peace” in the Middle East.
It also urged the Israeli authorities to open an “independent, rapid and transparent inquest” into the circumstances of his death. In addition, the foreign ministry called on all parties to the conflict to refrain from provocation and acts of violence and to work, with the international community, on re-opening peace talks.
During the scuffle on Wednesday, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas toward the legs of the Palestinians and a member of Israel’s security forces held Ziad Abu Ein, 55, by the neck. He later collapsed, received first aid and died en route to a hospital, witnesses said.
What killed the Palestinian official remains unclear and his body will undergo an autopsy attended by Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli pathologists, the Israeli army said. But the death of Abu Ein, the first Palestinian cabinet member to die immediately after a protest, is likely to enflame simmering tensions that remain after US-brokered peace talks fell apart earlier this year.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to meet with senior officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization and his Fatah movement later on Wednesday to discuss a possible response to Abu Ein’s death.
In a statement, Abbas called the death a “barbaric act” but added that he would wait for the results of the investigation before deciding on a response. He also called for three days of mourning in the Palestinian territories.
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for an independent investigation and said that “reports of excessive use of force by Israeli security forces are extremely worrying”.
swissinfo.ch and agencies