Sunday, February 24, 2013

Israel sends an ‘unequivocal demand’ to Palestinian leaders amid chaos

Israel sends an ‘unequivocal demand’ to Palestinian leaders amid chaos
A Palestinian protester throws a stone at Israeli security forces during clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron February 22, 2013. (Reuters)

By Al Arabiya with AFP

Israel said on Sunday it sent “an unequivocal demand” to Palestinian leaders to quell unrest, as thousands of detainees staged hunger strikes in Israeli prisons and their supporters clashed with security forces in the occupied West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the same time ordered the transfer of January arrears of tax revenues that Israel collects on the behalf of the Palestinians but has been withholding, the government said in a statement.

“Israel passed an unequivocal demand to the Palestinian Authority to calm down the territory,” the statement said.

“In order that the non-payment of taxes that Israel collects for the Palestinians should not serve as an excuse for the Palestinian Authority not to calm the territory, Netanyahu instructed the money for January to be transferred,” it added.

Protests in the West Bank have been mounting, both in support of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel -- 11 of whom are on open-ended hunger strike -- and against settlement expansion.

An official said almost all Palestinians in Israeli prisons were on a one-day hunger strike Sunday in protest at the sudden death of an inmate due to what prison authorities said appeared to have been cardiac arrest.

“It's 4,500, nearly everyone in fact,” Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP.

Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two, from Sair near Hebron in the southern West Bank, died on Saturday in an Israeli jail from what prison authorities said appeared to have been cardiac arrest.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad “expresses his deep sorrow and shock over the martyrdom of prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Israeli occupation prisons,” said the statement from his office.

He “affirms the need to promptly disclose the true reasons that led to his martyrdom,” it added.

Earlier, Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two from the West Bank city of Hebron, died suddenly at Megiddo detention center in northern Israel.

“It was probably a cardiac arrest. I don’t have additional details at the moment,” Weizman said.

Issa Qaraqaa, the Palestinian minister in charge of prisoner affairs, told AFP news agency that Jaradat had been arrested just a few days earlier.

“He was killed during the investigation,” Qaraqaa added.

“We demand the creation of an international commission of inquiry to probe the circumstances of his death.”

Israel’s Shin Bet internal intelligence service said Jaradat had been arrested on Monday for his involvement in a stone-throwing incident in November during which an Israeli had been wounded.