EU demands 'immediate' inquiry into Palestinian official's death

Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein (centre) argues with Israeli border policemen during a protest near the West Bank city of Ramallah Dec 10, 2014. EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini demanded an "immediate" inquiry Wednesday into the death of
Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein (centre) argues with Israeli border policemen during a protest near the West Bank city of Ramallah Dec 10, 2014. EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini demanded an "immediate" inquiry Wednesday into the death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein during a confrontation with Israeli troops in the West Bank. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (AFP) - EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini demanded an "immediate" inquiry Wednesday into the death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein during a confrontation with Israeli troops in the West Bank.

"Reports of excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces are extremely worrying: I call for an immediate, independent investigation into... Abu Ein's death," she said in a statement.

"I expect all sides to exercise maximum restraint at this time and to avoid all actions that would further raise tensions," she added.

Mogherini, who took office Nov 1, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories shortly afterwards as "a signal of the priority given to the region by the EU."

She has consistently condemned Israel's plans to build new settler homes as an obstacle to getting peace talks back on track, questioning whether it really wanted a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Abu Ein, a former deputy minister in the Palestinian Authority, died as he took part in a march by some 300 Palestinians who planned to plant olive trees as a symbolic act of protest against Israeli settlements.

The group was confronted by Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas in the West Bank village of Turmusayya.

Three soldiers grabbed Abu Ein and hit him in the chest, an Agence France-Presse photographer said.

Abu Ein fell and an Israeli army doctor rushed to treat him before he was evacuated to hospital.

The Palestinian leadership vowed to respond as president Mahmoud Abbas described the death as "a barbaric act that cannot be tolerated or accepted."