Palestinian and Israeli pathologists have disagreed on the cause of death of Palestinian cabinet member Ziad Abu Ein.

Abu Ein died after he was allegedly hit on the chest by an Israeli soldier during a confrontation in the village of Turmusiya on the West Bank yesterday, (10 December). His death has been described as "a barbaric act" by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who announced three days of national mourning yesterday.

But an autopsy report by Palestinian and Israeli doctors have reached different conclusions behind the cause of his death, AP reports.

The Palestinian pathologist said he died because of a blow to his body, not of natural causes while the Israeli doctor said the settlements minister was caused by the blockage of a coronary artery.

Another Palestinian cabinet member said Abu Ain died as a result of tear gas inhalation and beatings allegedly sustained during the clashes with Israel Defense Forces.

Hussein Sheikh, Palestinian minister of civil affairs, told Voice of Palestine radio that delays in getting Abu Ain to the hospital also contributed to his death.

Abu Ain's funeral is scheduled to begin later today in the West Bank city of Ramallah and Israel has reinforced its security forces in the area with two battalions of soldiers and two companies of border police in preparation.

Israeli paramilitary border police also clashed with 60-100 rock-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, the Israeli military said.

Tree-planting demonstration

Abu Ein had been taking part in a tree-planting demonstration in Turmus Aya when he was confronted by Israeli soldiers. He was pictured being grabbed by the neck by one officer during one heated exchange. He later collapsed amid reports he had been hit in the chest using a helmet or the butt of a rifle.

It was claimed he suffered from inhaling tear gas by the Israeli forces, who wanted to disperse crowds taking part in a demonstration against land confiscations, said fatah member Aahmoud Aloul.

Fatah member Aahmoud Aloul said Abu Ein was taking part in a demonstration against land confiscations, when Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

"The Israel government bears full responsibility for the killing of Minster Abu Ain and the systematic crimes committed against the Palestinian people," said Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian peace negotiator.

"This new assassination will have severe consequences."