Thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails have staged a one-day hunger strike in protest after the death of a fellow inmate, an Israeli official has said, as rallies were held across the occupied Palestinian territories.
“About 3,000 prisoners announced that they would refuse meals,”Sivan Weizman, Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman, told the AFP news agency on Sunday.
Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two, from the village of Sair near Hebron in the southern West Bank, died on Saturday in an Israeli jail from what prison authorities said appeared to have been cardiac arrest.
Palestinian officials and the detainee’s family alleged that Jaradat was mistreated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence service, saying he was healthy at the time of his arrest last week.
An autopsy on Jaradat’s body was due to take place at Israel’s national forensic institute on Sunday and Issa Qaraqaa, the Palestinian minister in charge of prisoner affairs, said a Palestinian doctor and Jaradat family members would be present.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from outside Ofer military prison, near Ramallah, said there were about 800 to 900 Palestinian prisoners there taking part in the hunger strike over Jaradat’s death.
Johnston said there was a “heavy Israeli police presence” outside the prison.
In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians from Hamas, which governs the territory, Islamic Jihad and other factions, also gathered to protest against Jaradat’s death.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Fawzi Barhoum, an Hamas spokesperson, said: “This is a crime against our prisoners committed by the Israeli government.
“There must be a third Intifada [uprising] and a revolution … to pressure Israel to protect our prisoners.”
Jaradat’s death could exacerbate tensions in Israel and the 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.
Protests in solidarity with Samer Issawi, one of the four hunger strikers who has refused food since August to protest against his detention, were also held on Sunday.
Issawi’s family recently told Al Jazeera he would be close to death if he continues his action.
Protesters in Issawi’s village and in different parts of Hebron city hurled stones at Israeli security forces who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, witnesses said.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy has made “an unequivocal demand” to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority to quell the wave of protests in the West Bank, a government statement said.
Sunday’s statement added that Netanyahu had also ordered the transfer of January arrears of tax revenues that Israel collects on the behalf of the Palestinians but has been withholding.
Israel holds more than 4,600 Palestinians in jail on charges that range from stone-throwing to deadly attacks on Israeli targets. Of the detainees, 159 are being held without charge or trial.