Palestinian prisoner dies in Israeli custody

Israel says thirty-year-old Arafat Jaradat died of natural causes, while Palestinians allege he died under questioning.

Palestinian protester shot
Two Palestinians were shot during demonstrations against Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Saturday [EPA]

A Palestinian prisoner has died in an Israeli jail, according to a prison spokesperson.

The news prompted a Palestinian official on Saturday to charge that he was killed during questioning and demand an international probe.

Arafat Jaradat was “arrested a few days ago. He was killed during the investigation”, Issa Qaraqaa, Palestinian minister in charge of prisoner affairs, told the AFP news agency.

“We demand the creation of an international commission of inquiry to probe the circumstances of his death,” Qaraqaa added.

Sivan Eqizman, an Israel Prisons Service spokesperson, said Jaradat, a 30-year-old from the West Bank city of Hebron, died at the Meggido detention centre in northern Israel.

“I can confirm that a Palestinian prisoner died today in the Meggido prison. It was probably a cardiac arrest. I don’t have additional details at the moment,” Weizman said.

On Sunday, Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston outside Ofer military prison, said there were some 3,000 Palestinian prisoners taking part in a one day hunger strike to protest Jaradat’s death.

There was a “heavy Israeli police presence” outside the prison, which for the past week has been the main site for protests against the detainment of Palestinian prisoners, Johnston said. 

Shin Bet’s account

The Shin Bet internal intelligence service said that Jaradat had been taken ill just before his death.

“Medics were called to treat him but they were unable to save his life,” Shin Bet said in a statement, adding that Israeli police had opened an investigation into the circumstances of Jaradat’s death.

Hamas accused Israel of being responsible for Jaradat’s death due to “the inhuman conditions in Israeli jails”.

Jaradat’s death could exacerbate tensions in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories which have been rocked in past weeks by protests of solidarity with four other prisoners detained by Israel who are on hunger strike.

Jaradat was arrested on Monday after incidents near the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron in the West Bank.

News of his death comes a day after 94 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces during demonstrations in the West Bank to demand the release of the four hunger-strikers.

Statistics published by Israeli rights group B’Tselem show by the end of 2012, 4,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails.

The fate of Palestinian prisoners, and in particular the four hunger strikers, has sparked protests across the Palestinian territories since the start of February and raised international concern.

Palestinians shot

Fresh clashes erupted in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, as two Palestinian protesters were shot by Israeli settlers at a demonstration against settlements by Israelis.

The clash took place in the northern village of Kusra, an Israeli military official and Palestinian residents said.

Helmi Abdul-Aziz, 24, was shot in the stomach in the skirmish with Jewish settlers, Palestinian demonstrators said. They said Jewish settlers also shot 14-year-old Mustafa Hilal in the foot.

An Israeli military official confirmed that two Palestinians were shot, but said the bullets appeared to have been fired by Jewish settlers because the Israeli forces were not using live ammunition. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with military policy.

A Palestinian hospital official said Abdul-Aziz was in serious condition. The medic requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

‘Riot-dispersal means’

Villagers said the clashes began when a group of Jewish settlers encroached on their village lands and fired guns.

They said the settlers chased a Palestinian farmer and his family off land, prompting the farmer to call on residents to confront the settlers, and men on both sides hurled rocks at each other.

The Israeli military official said about 200 Palestinians and 25 Israeli settlers took part in the clashes, and Israeli forces dispersed Palestinian protesters using “riot dispersal means”.

Two Palestinian residents watching the clashes, Basem Nazal and Abdul-Azim Wadi, said Israeli forces fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on demonstrators, and that a rubber bullet hit a 15-year-old Palestinian demonstrator in the eye.

They also said the Israeli forces did not use live fire.

Source: News Agencies