The death of Palestinian prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, in Israeli custody on Saturday has caused a wide-scale wave of protests and demonstrations across the Palestinian territories. Israel has demanded the Palestinian Authority (PA) put a "curb on violence" ahead of US presidential visit to the region.
Today (25.02.13) marks the third day of West Bank protests since the death of Jaradat and Israeli forces have announced a state of high alert in the region ahead of his funeral. The funeral procession is due to set out from the Sa'eer neighbourhood in Hebron where he lived.
Palestinians took to streets immediately after hearing about Jaradat's death. They were also out on the streets of the West Bank for several days before this protesting over the plight of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, particularly the four hunger strikers, two of whom stopped eating 202 days ago.
The Israeli Prison Service said that Jaradat died of a heart attack and the signs of harm to his body were the result of resuscitation attempts. The PA autopsy report issued yesterday (Sunday) has refuted Israeli assertions and affirmed that Jaradat was tortured to death. This has significantly increased the level and range of anger amongst Palestinians.
In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians, including the families of prisoners in Israeli jails, activists and leaders of several Palestinian factions took part in a demonstration organised by the Waed Association for Prisoners' Affairs.
The families of prisoners expressed their great fears about the safety of their loved ones being held in Israeli jails. "We are already fearful about the danger to the lives of our sons, but after Jaradat's death as a result of torture, our fear has increased," the mother of a prisoner with a life sentence said.
Hamas spokesman, Salah al-Bardaweel, said: "We will not rest until we free all our prisoners." Abu-Mujahed, the spokesman of Salahuddin Brigades said: "The truce is not a reason that restricts our efforts to free our prisoners."
Fearing that the wave of unrest could be the spark of a third intifada, Israeli officials called on the PA to put a "curb on violence" in the West Bank. Israeli media reported that Netanyahu's aide demanded that PA officials maintain a state of calm in the West Bank ahead of U.S president Barack Obama's visit to the region.
According to Israeli news website Timesofisrael, the coordinator of Israeli government activities in the West Bank, Major General Eitan Dangot, has phoned PA prime minister in Ramallah, Salam Fayyad, and urged him to do his best to "stop the flames."
Meanwhile, Nabil Shaath, a member of the executive committee of the Palestinians Liberation Organisation (PLO), affirmed that Palestinian rage would not turn to violence. "It will only be peaceful," he told Palestinian media.
About 7,000 Palestinians are being held in Israeli prisons. Local and international reports confirm that they live in dire humanitarian conditions and are exposed to severe torture. With Jaradat's death, the number of Palestinian deaths inside Israeli jails has risen to 203.
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, and the UNHCR's Navi Pillay have called for Israel to abide by international conventions in dealing with the Palestinians prisoners.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad