25,000 at West Bank funeral of militant who died in jail


Some 25,000 Palestinians attended the funeral of a detainee who died in Israeli custody over the weekend but clashes in the West Bank were relatively restrained.

Palestinians from all factions joined together in an impressive show of unity as the body of Arafat Jaradat (30) was brought from Hebron to his home village of Sa’ir.

Gunmen fired into the air as a large crowd of mourners carrying Palestinian and factional flags joined the funeral. Militants from the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, to which Mr Jaradat belonged, vowed to avenge his death.

Clashes broke out in the area and at various locations across the West Bank but Israeli troops were ordered to show restraint and keep casualties to a minimum amid fears that the protests could escalate into a widespread popular revolt.

Arrested last week

Mr Jaradat was arrested last week and admitted to throwing a rock that injured an Israeli in the West Bank.

His death on Saturday at the northern Israeli prison of Megiddo prompted thousands of Palestinian detainees held by Israel to return their meals and sparked off violent clashes across the West Bank.

Palestinian officials alleged that Mr Jaradat was tortured by Israeli interrogators, citing an autopsy that revealed bruising and two broken ribs.

Israel denied the accusation, saying the autopsy was inconclusive and that the bruising and broken ribs were likely the result of attempts to revive the detainee, who died of an apparent heart attack.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of deliberately seeking to stoke unrest in the West Bank.

“The Israelis want chaos and we know it but we won’t let them,” he said, adding that he won’t let Palestinians waste away in Israeli jails.

He demanded an inquiry into Mr Jaradat’s death and added that the Palestinian Authority holds Israel responsible for his death.

Senior Israeli defence official Amos Gilad accused the Palestinian Authority of fanning the flames of violence ahead next month’s visit of US president Barack Obama to the region.