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Palestinian Minister Dies After Row With Soldier

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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has announced three days of national mourning after one of his cabinet members died following a confrontation with Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian leaders are holding emergency talks about the incident, while Israel says it is "reviewing the circumstances" of the death.

Mr Abbas says all options are open, following the death of Ziad Abu Ein in the West Bank.

He was taking part in a tree-planting demonstration in Turmus Aya when he was confronted by Israeli soldiers and tear gas was fired.

Witnesses also said the Cabinet member was involved in a scuffle with an Israeli soldier and there were claims he was hit on the chest by an Israeli soldier's helmet and a rifle butt.

He then began to experience breathing problems, and died while he was being taken to hospital by ambulance.

Mr Abbas said: "What happened today was a crime. We cannot be patient or remain quiet about what happened.

"We are open to taking up any option against the other side."

Palestinian leaders are due to hold a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss what action they may take.

About 100 foreign and Palestinian activists were on their way to plant trees near an Israeli settlement when they were stopped at an improvised checkpoint.

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

One marcher said Mr Abu Ein marched toward the soldiers ahead of everyone else, until he was stopped by a soldier.

He said the soldier headbutted the politician then hit him in the chest with his rifle butt.

The Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Manuel Hassassian told Sky News: "Ziad Abu Ein was trying to explain the situation, why they were there, and what have you.

"They started pushing and shoving and throwing tear gas at the people and he was defending the right to stay there, to plant the olive trees and the end result was that tear gases were suffocating him. He fell on the ground and he was beaten before he passed away."

Lt Col Peter Lerner of the Israeli Defence Force told Sky News: "We are investigating the specifics of the events of today. How were our troops prepared for the event, for the demonstration? What did we know? Did we know who was coming?

"We have to determine what is the actual cause of death and I'm happy to say that the Palestinians have agreed that there will be a joint investigation and pathologist both from our side and the Palestinian side will look into what exactly happened.

"Taking care and preventing an escalation of violence, we don't want that to happen. We are currently speaking with our counterparts in the Palestinian security apparatus in order to prevent an escalation and stop the cycle of violence we face."

Ziad Abu Ein was Deputy Minister for Prisoner Affairs for the Palestinian Authority prior to his role with the anti-settlements committee.

The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I'm shocked by the death of Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein, following clashes between the IDF and Palestinians at a protest and tree planting ceremony for Human Rights Day in the West Bank.

"We expect a swift and transparent investigation."

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