China’s ambassador to Israel Du Wei was found dead at his residence early on Sunday, according to an Al Arabiya correspondent.
The 58-year-old was found dead in his apartment in the city of Herzliya, confirmed Israeli officials.
Unidentified emergency medical officials had reportedly told Israel’s Channel 12 TV that initial indications suggested that Du died in his sleep of natural causes.
Israeli media reports, citing unnamed medical personnel, said that Du was found dead in his bed and that there were no signs of violence.
He had recently transferred to Israel from the Ukraine, where he was appointed as ambassador from 2016-2019.
The ambassador is survived by a wife and son who are currently not in the country.
The news of Wei’s death comes after the embassy on Friday had responded to statements by the United States reportedly asking Israel to distance itself from China.
On May 15, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of increased Chinese investments in the country during an official visit to Israel. Chinese business in Israel has expanded in recent years, with Chinese companies winning lucrative contracts including the exclusive rights to operate the new container terminal at Hafia’s port.
“China-Israel cooperation is win-win in nature, and the projects are market activities based on supply and demand,” the embassy said in response to Pompeo’s comments.
Israel has previously been dragged into a conflict between the US and China. In the late 1990s, US pressure led to Israel cancelling a planned deal in which Israel would sell radar systems to China. In 2005, Israel ceased its defence trade with China after the US objected to an antiradar missile deal.
The Trump administration has seen China as a hostile rival and engaged in repeated spats with the Chinese leadership centred on trade and the two countries’ respective handling of the coronavirus pandemic.