There is still much that we do not know about the death of Ziad Abu Ein, a 55-year-old Palestinian minister without portfolio who died Wednesday after a confrontation with Israeli troops. But what we do know is quickly becoming a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian relations: Shortly before his death in an ambulance en route to a Ramallah hospital, a shaky video captured an Israeli soldier holding Abu Ein by the throat.
Abu Ein and a group of activists had traveled to a patch of land in the West Bank where the group planned to plant olive trees. The Palestinians reportedly believed the land had been marked for annexation by Israel. Once there, they were confronted by Israeli troops, and a confrontation ensued. Abu Ein can be seen on video arguing with the Israelis, prompting what appears to be an Israeli soldier to grab him by the throat. Other video shows Abu Ein in a crowd where some sort of smoke grenade explodes. Conflicting reports indicate that he may have been struck in the neck or chest by a tear gas canister.
An RT video shows Abu Ein shortly after the incident. Here, he appears to be struggling for breath.
A Reuters video of the incident offers more context:
Abu Ein did a stint in Israeli prison for his involvement in the killing of an Israeli teenager and was released in a prisoner swap in 1985.
Israel has pledged to investigate his death, which comes amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. In recent weeks, a series of terror attacks have left several people dead, including a three-month-old baby, and the Israeli government has resumed the controversial practice of demolishing the family homes of alleged terrorists.
Against that background, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed a bill to elevate the Jewish status of his country, an initiative that led to the collapse of his government and will force new elections currently scheduled for March.
Palestinians saw Netanyahu’s initiative as an effort to marginalize them within Israel, and the death of Abu Ein is sure to further inflame feelings of anger among that community.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images