Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Wednesday that Israel is exploring the possibility of involving international agents in the investigation into the death of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Megiddo Prison last week.

Israeli officials had previously dismissed the Palestinian Authority's demand for an international inquiry into Jaradat's death as a “predictable” maneuver and part of a larger strategy to bring the international community into the conflict whenever possible.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that a Palestinian forensic expert had already determined that Jaradat died as a result of torture.

In response to a parliamentary query about the investigation into Jaradat's death made by Balad MK Jamal Zahalka, Aharonivitch stated, "An autopsy was performed by Professor (Yehuda) Hiss in the presence of Palestinian pathologist Dr. Saber al-Alul and Professor [Arnon] Afek from the Health Ministry's Medical Administration. At this time it is not possible to determine the cause of death. The Institute [of Forensic Medicine] is awaiting the results of the autopsy."

Aharonocitch denied that the results of the probe into Jaradat's death were being withheld, stating that an international observer could be added to the team investigating the death in order to dispel accusations that Jaradat was killed as a result of improper treatment.

Jaradat's death touched off several days of Palestinian rioting in the West Bank. The situation was already tense as the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails was highlighted by a continuing hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli officials noted Tuesday that there were currently three parallel investigations into Jaradat's death. The Health Ministry was conducting an autopsy, the police were investigating, and – as is the case in all instances of prison deaths – a judge has ordered an inquest.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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