Sunday, May 20, 2018

Palestinian-Israeli clashes continue over prisoner death

JERUSALEM — The death of a 30-year-old Palestinian man being held in an Israeli jail sparked another day of protests and rioting across the West Bank on Sunday as fears heightened that Palestinian frustration levels are nearing a boiling point.

Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli soldiers erupted in the West Bank city of Hebron and nearby villages after the death of Arafat Jaradat, a gas station attendant who was arrested Feb. 18 for throwing rocks and firebombs at Israelis near Hebron.

Israeli officials say he died Saturday in Meggido prison, apparently of a heart attack.

Palestinian Prisoners Minister Issa Qaraqi called for an international inquiry into the conditions in Israeli jails, including the circumstances of Jaradat's death, and said Israel should be held responsible.

Jaradat's attorney, Kmeil Sabbagh, said his client complained of being mistreated during interrogation, and that he appeared to be suffering from back pain and extreme anxiety during a court hearing last week.

Members of Jaradat's family said he was in good health before his arrest.

Israel denied any mistreatment and invited the man's family and Palestinian doctors to participate in an autopsy. Results have not been released.

After the autopsy Sunday, conducted by Israel and observed by a Palestinian doctor, Qaraqi said Jaradat's body was bruised and showed signs of being beaten on the chest, back, arms and mouth.

"It is obvious that Arafat underwent severe torture during interrogation that caused him a psychological shock that led to his immediate death," Qaraqi said Sunday night. "It seems he was in a slaughterhouse. Israel should not be allowed to get away with this."

In addition to the clashes around Hebron, outrage over Jaradat's death led to smaller protests in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin and at checkpoints in East Jerusalem and south of Nablus. Palestinians threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. Israeli soldiers used tear gas and rubber bullets. At least four protesters were seriously wounded, Palestinian officials said.

More than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners also called for a one-day hunger strike Sunday to mourn Jaradat.

Jaradat was not among the four Palestinian prisoners whose ongoing hunger strike had already galvanized Palestinians in the West Bank, triggering several demonstrations over the past week.

The conditions of those men continued to worsen, officials said. Three have been moved from a prison clinic to a hospital, say Israeli authorities.

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