February 25, 2013 - 1:00am

A strike, rallies and protests on Sunday dominated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in support of a hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons which protested against a Palestinian inmate's death one day ago.

Witnesses in the West Bank said most of the stores were closed Sunday, while schoolchildren and university students did not go to classes to protest the death of Arafat Jaradat, who died Saturday in Israel's Majeddo prison in the West Bank.

Hundreds rallied in Ramallah city, waving flags and pictures of Palestinian prisoners who have been detained in Israeli jails for more than two decades. The demonstrators also handed a letter to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), calling for the prisoners' immediate release.

The demonstrators marched toward the Israeli prison of Offer in the west of Ramallah, and threw stones at the Israeli guards of the prison. The guards dispersed the demonstrators with tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets. Witnesses said several demonstrators were lightly injured.

Meanwhile, the southern West Bank town of Sa'eer, near Hebron, as well as other neighboring towns and villages also witnessed heavy clashes between demonstrators and Israeli soldiers.

Eassa Qaraqea, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) minister for prisoners' affairs, said at a news conference that Jaradat died after he was subjected to intensive and brutal physical and psychological torture, adding that "this contradicts with the international law of human rights."

"He was at al-Jalama prison, where he was brutally tortured, and when his health conditions deteriorated, he was brought to Mejjeddo jail, where he was died on Saturday," Qaraqea said, adding that "he was harshly interrogated, and Israel is the only country which still uses such inhuman methods."

The Palestinian official called on the leadership to immediately respond to the death of Jaradat and immediately take a decision "to join the Geneva Third and Fourth Conventions as Palestine is now a (UN) non-member observer state to sue Israel in the international courts."

Meanwhile, Qadoura Farres, president of the Palestinian Prisoner Club Association, said at the news conference that the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails "are suffering from medical neglect and face daily repression. Israeli leaders must be taken to court for such practices."

The PNA ministry of foreign affairs has also called in an official statement to form an independent query committee to investigate the circumstances of Jaradat's death. The statement called on the international community "to condemn this awful crime and hold Israel responsible for it."

On the other hand, Israel called on the PNA to calm down the situation in the Palestinian territories. Israeli Radio quoted several Israeli government officials, including an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as saying that the PNA has to calm down the situation in the West Bank.

The radio also reported that the Israeli government decided to release the financial dues of tax revenues Israel pays to the PNA budget on a monthly basis. Some observers said the decision was to end any tension that might be caused in the future.

Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PNA security apparatuses, said in a statement that the practices of the settlers and the Israeli soldiers on the ground against the Palestinians, the daily repression and the killing of the prisoners "give the Palestinians the right to protest and peacefully demonstrate."

"The peaceful and popular resistance against the Israeli occupation is a legitimate right given to any people to defend themselves and get rid of the occupation," Damiri said, adding that "the Israeli practices on the ground would certainly lead to resistance."

In the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in the streets in support of the prisoners. They waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans against Israel.

Hamas spokesman in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri told reporters that the Palestinians will use every possible means to get the prisoners released.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails went on a one-day hunger strike Sunday in protest of the death of Jaradat, who, according to Israeli media reports, died of a heart attack.

According to official figures, there are around 4,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel jails.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017