The Palestinian Authority responded to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s
appeal to calm down the situation in the West Bank on Sunday following Arafat
Jaradat’s death in prison by announcing instead that the security prisoner was
PA Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqi claimed
that Jaradat had been subjected to severe torture. An autopsy performed on
Jaradat’s body “proved that he had been severely tortured” while in detention,
Qaraqi told reporters in Ramallah.
The autopsy did not provide any
evidence that Jaradat had died of a heart attack, as Israel maintained, Qaraqi
said. The claim of a heart attack was a “lie” and he held Israel fully
responsible for “this cruel crime,” he said.
Israel, he added, “must be
held fully accountable for this war crime.”
Qaraqi reiterated his call
for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate
PA Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub told Channel 2
that he held Israel responsible for Jaradat’s death. The current riots were not
a third intifada but were a protest that underlined the importance and
sensitivity of the prisoner issue to the Palestinians, Rajoub
However, Israel says no signs of violence were shown in Jaradat’s
autopsy. Israel Radio reported that the results of the investigation into the
cause of his death at Megiddo Prison on Saturday were inconclusive.
Health Ministry said the injuries found in the autopsy could have been caused by
the medical emergency team’s efforts to resuscitate Jaradat.
bruising on his shoulder, chest and elbows, as well as fractures in two of his
“These initial findings are not enough to determine the cause
of death,” the ministry said.
As the violence spread following Jaradat’s
death, Netanyahu sent a message to the PA leadership through Yitzhak Molcho, his
envoy to the Palestinians, saying that Israel expected the PA to “keep the peace
and quiet, maintain law and order, and prevent violence.”
official said the operating assumptions behind the message were twofold: that
the PA had the ability to control the violence, and certain elements inside the
PA had been responsible for the recent wave of riots.
Palestinians believe that you can have a low level of violence and expect it to
remain static, then they are playing with fire,” the official said. “Once you go
down the path of violence, you don’t know where it will end. They could be
riding a tiger.”
Netanyahu was closely monitoring the situation, and was
being constantly briefed about the situation on the ground, the official
To deprive the PA of an excuse for not taking action to tamp down
the tension, the prime minister said he would release the NIS 400 million in January tax revenue that Israel collects for the
PA, and that the February revenue would also be transferred, the official
This decision was made to “put the ball in their court” so they
could not use a failure to be able to pay salaries to security officials as the
reason for not clamping down on the violence, the official said.
held up the transfer of funds following the PA’s successful bid for an upgrade
at the UN General Assembly in November. In late January, Netanyahu announced
that Israel would transfer December’s revenues on a “one-time basis” because of
economic hardships facing the PA.
The official dismissed the idea that
Israel – in an attempt to keep Jaradat’s death or the condition of four
hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners from being a further catalyst for West
Bank violence – might release prisoners in advance of US President Barack
Obama’s visit next month as a confidence-building measure.
week that prisoner releases would be part of confidencebuilding measures to the
Palestinians were not true,” the official said.
“It is hard to talk about
confidencebuilding measures when they are walking up the hill of
The official declined to address speculation that the riots
were timed now, less than a month before Obama’s scheduled March 20 visit, to
put the Palestinian issue at the top of the US president’s agenda at a time when
it has been overshadowed by Iran’s nuclear program and the situation in
Qaraqi meanwhile called on the PA leadership to take a quick
decision “to join the Third and Fourth Geneva Convention” in response to the
death of the Palestinian inmate.
He said that such a move would allow the
Palestinians to seek protection of the international community for Palestinian
prisoners held in Israel.
Kamil Sabbagh, a lawyer for the PA Ministry for
Prisoners’ Affairs, said he last saw Jaradat in court on February 21. “He was
complaining of severe pain in the back and appeared exhausted,” Sabbagh said. He
claimed that Jaradat told him that he had been beaten during
On Sunday, Jaradat’s body was handed over to his family in
Sa’ir, near Hebron, where he is expected to be buried on Monday.
Qurei, a former PA prime minister, warned that the violence could erupt into a
third intifada. He accused Israel of “assassinating” Jaradat and endangering the
lives of other Palestinian prisoners, especially those who had been on hunger
strike for several weeks.
Qurei also warned that Israel was preparing to
perpetrate a “big crime” against the Aksa Mosque and Muslim worshipers in
Ever since the 1929 Arab riots, when Jews set up a mehitza
(separation between men and women) at the Western Wall for prayers, the Arabs
have consistently used the claim – often with the intent of inciting violence
and whipping up a frenzy – that the Jews were on the verge of destroying or
damaging the Aksa Mosque.
Jaradat’s death triggered fresh protests in the
West Bank, with hundreds of Palestinians taking to the streets and clashing with
Clashes were reported in Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem,
Palestinian sources said. At least 36 Palestinians were wounded during
confrontations with soldiers, the sources added.
Some 200 Palestinians
threw rocks and Molotov cocktails and burned tires in the Hassam Hashoter area
of Hebron on Sunday, according to an IDF spokeswoman. Security forces responded
with riot dispersal means, she said, adding that a rock-thrower lightly wounded
In Beit Umar, south of Bethlehem, around 100 Palestinians
threw rocks, wounding one soldier lightly.
A group of 50 Palestinians
threw rocks and improvised bombs at solders at Rachel’s Tomb just north of
Bethlehem. There were no injuries in that incident, the spokeswoman
The worst violence occurred near Ofer Prison on the outskirts of
Ramallah, where 26 Palestinians were reportedly injured, two of them by live
ammunition. Palestinians said the 15-year-old son of Ziad Hab al-Reeh, commander
of the PA’s Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, was among the
The IDF said it was examining this claim.
contributed to this report.