JERUSALEM (AP) — Thousands of Palestinian prisoners launched a one-day fast Sunday to commemorate an inmate who died the day before in Israeli custody after days of West Bank protests in support of four hunger-strikers.
Israel's prison service said 3,000 Palestinian prisoners went on the fast after 30-year-old Arafat Shalish Shahin Jaradat died Saturday. The death came after more than a week of clashes at protests in support of four long-term Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails.
Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has called for a comprehensive investigation. It said the police inquiry must include the "full circumstances" surrounding his death, including how he was treated during questioning by Israel's domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet.
The agency said Jaradat was arrested on Feb. 18 after residents in his West Bank village of Saeer said he was involved in a rock-throwing attack that injured an Israeli citizen. Jaradat admitted to the charge, as well to another West Bank rock-throwing incident last year, Shin Bet said in a statement.
Jaradat suffered from back pain and had been injured in the past by a rubber bullet and tear gas canister, the Shin Bet statement said, adding that he was examined a few times by a doctor who detected no health problems, and his interrogation continued.
"After lunch, while resting in his cell he felt unwell. Rescue services and a doctor were alerted and treated him, they didn't succeed in saving his life," the statement said.
A Shin Bet spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with protocol, said Jaradat was not beaten during his interrogation, nor did he experience any physical activities that might have led to a worsening of his health.
Jaradat was not on hunger strike and died of an apparent heart attack, Israeli prison services spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said.
His death angered Palestinians who have been demonstrating for more than a week in support of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, especially four long-time hunger-strikers, one of whom has seen his health deteriorate rapidly. Protests often turned into violent clashes with soldiers.
Defense officials said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz convened top military officials Saturday night to discuss escalating tensions in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, veteran Israeli lawmaker and acting speaker of parliament Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned that violence between Israelis and Palestinians will escalate unless stalled peace talks resume. "We are on the eve of an Intifada," he told Israel radio using the Arabic term for uprising.
"I have been warning of this for many months. I know these guys and I see the signs," said Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister. "As someone who has gone through two Intifadas, I say this time it will be the bloodiest," he said.
Palestinians have launched two uprisings against Israeli occupation. The first in 1987 lasted nearly six years. The second, deadlier uprising broke out in late 2000 and stretched for about five years. More than 3,000 Palestinians and over 1,000 Israelis died in the fighting.
Ben-Eliezer urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume talks with the Palestinians. He said this will be the focus of next month's visit to the region by U.S. President Barack Obama.