The death of a Palestinian minister during a protest against land confiscations in the West Bank may have resulted from arbitrary and abusive force by Israeli forces against demonstrators, said Amnesty International.
Ziad Abu Ein, who headed a committee that opposed the West Bank wall and Israeli settlements, died after a confrontation with Israeli forces in the village of Turmus’ayya.
Photographs posted online showed Israeli forces grabbing his throat.
“This appears to be a tragedy that could have been avoided. The Israeli forces have an abysmal track record when it comes to policing protests and have frequently resorted to the unnecessary or excessive use of force against protesters in the West Bank, resulting in numerous unlawful killings. And they continue to do so with impunity,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
Shortly before his death Ziad Abu Ein told news reporters the protest had been peaceful. “We came to plant trees on Palestinian land, and they launched into an attack on us from the first moment. Nobody threw a single stone,” he said.
“There must be an independent, impartial investigation into his death. This incident only serves to highlight how crucial it is that Israeli forces who use excessive force, including unnecessary lethal force during protests are held to account for their actions,” said Philip Luther. “Without accountability more lives will be needlessly lost.”
Conflicting reports have emerged about the cause of his death with some sources suggesting he was hit in the chest with a tear-gas canister and other sources saying he suffered complications as a result of exposure to tear gas.
Witnesses also said he was beaten by Israeli forces.
Amnesty International documented the unlawful killing of dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in its February 2014 report Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank since 2011.
In recent months tensions in the West Bank have erupted into full blown violence with several deaths on both sides.