Jodi Rudoren
The New York Times
February 25, 2013 - 1:00am

Palestinian teenagers were seriously injured Monday when Israeli soldiers used live ammunition to disperse a demonstration at a holy site outside Bethlehem, as clashes in the West Bank continued for a fifth day and thousands attended the burial of a 30-year-old Palestinian who died in an Israeli jail over the weekend.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, spoke for the first time on Monday about the prisoner, Arafat Jaradat, saying that Israel must be held responsible for his death and that its leaders were trying to foment chaos rather than work toward peace.

Other Palestinian officials have said Mr. Jaradat died because of torture during interrogation. An autopsy conducted Sunday did not immediately determine the cause of death, but an Israeli official said Monday that a report on the findings should be released by the end of the week and that the police and courts were investigating the death separately.

“Jaradat went to jail and returned back a dead body,” Mr. Abbas said Monday in Ramallah, hours before the teenagers were shot near Bethlehem. “We insist to know how this happened and who did this. We will not let them play in the lives of our sons. They are confronting children and killing them with live ammunition. We will not allow our prisoners to remain in the occupation jails all their lives for things that they did not commit.”

About 10,000 people accompanied Mr. Jaradat’s body from a hospital in Hebron to his family’s home in Sa’ir, a village nearby, and then to the cemetery. The Israeli military closed a main road for the procession, in which members of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the militant wing of the Fatah party, fired guns into the air.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who sent a message on Sunday to the Palestinian leadership demanding that it restore calm in the West Bank, held security consultations on the matter on Monday, according to a statement from his office. Defense Minister Ehud Barak convened a special meeting on Monday with the military chief of staff and the leaders of Israel’s police force and prison service “during which possible scenarios were introduced,” according to a statement from Mr. Barak’s office, “as well as possible ways to cope with them and maintain security needs while trying to restore the calm on the ground.”

The United States Consulate in Jerusalem limited travel by government employees to the West Bank because of the demonstrations and advised all American citizens to avoid the area and “to exercise an extra measure of caution during this period.”

“The U.S. Consulate General takes this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens that demonstrations, even peaceful ones, can turn violent with little or no warning,” it said in a statement. “U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid large crowds.”

The Egyptian foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, called on the international community to take a firm stance against what he described as Israel’s inhumane practices against the Palestinian prisoners, according to the state newspaper, and warned that a continuation of such policies could lead to an explosion in the region.

So far, the situation seems to be on a simmer. Every day since Thursday, demonstrations have occurred in several West Bank cities and villages in which Palestinians have thrown rocks and sometimes gasoline bombs at Israeli soldiers, who generally respond with tear gas, rubber bullets and occasionally water cannons or live ammunition. Most of the demonstrations, including those in Hebron and Beituniya on Monday, have drawn crowds of a few hundred and resulted in a handful of light to moderate injuries.

But more serious clashes broke out near Rachel’s Tomb on Monday afternoon and evening. An Israeli military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that soldiers fired .22-caliber rounds at Palestinians who were throwing improvised grenades at worshipers near the tomb, which is next to the Aida refugee camp just outside Bethlehem.

A doctor at Beit Jala Hospital who spoke on the condition that he not be identified said a 13-year-old had been shot in a lung during that protest and was in the intensive care unit Monday night after undergoing surgery. Hours later, a 19-year-old Palestinian was shot as the demonstration raged on, the doctor said.

“He is in a dangerous situation,” the doctor said of the second patient. “Doctors are trying to save his life.”


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