Ziad Abu Ain, a minister for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, has died after clashing with Israeli forces at a protest in the West Bank. There are conflicting stories as to how he died, and the UN is urging the Israeli government to launch a probe to investigate.

Reports say that Ain was participating in a demonstration with 200 others at the village of Turmusiya. The group was reportedly carrying olive tree saplings that they intended to plant as a protest against new Israeli settlements. When the demonstrators were confronted by members of the Israeli Defense Forces, witnesses say Ain was struck in the chest by a tear gas canister. Ain died on the way to a hospital. The official cause of death at this time is “complications related to tear gas exposure.”

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat has called the incident an “assassination” and President Abbas announced three days of mourning. A Reuters reporter who witnessed the events said a soldier hit Ain in the neck with his hand prior to the minister’s collapse.

The official statement from Israel paints a more hostile portrait of the olive tree carrying protesters, saying that armed IDF members:

halted the progress of rioters into the civilian community of Adei-Ad using riot-dispersal means. The IDF is reviewing the circumstances of the participation of Ziad Abu Ein, and his later death.

The incident comes at a time when international pressure has increasingly been opposed to Israel’s actions and rumors of forthcoming sanctions against Israel by the Obama administration have swirled.

(Photo: Vice News)