JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli prison guards fired tear gas on Tuesday to quell disturbances in cell blocks after Palestinian prisoners protested following the news of a fellow inmate's death of cancer, an Israeli official said.
Palestinian officials accused Israel of not providing adequate medical care for Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who died earlier on Tuesday. The 64-year-old was serving a life sentence for his role in a foiled attempt to bomb a busy cafe in Jerusalem in 2002.
Prisons Authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said Abu Hamdiyeh was treated well by specialist doctors and died in a hospital in Beersheba.
Weizman said the prison service had asked the parole board for the prisoner's early release after his cancer was diagnosed as terminal last week, but that the appeal was still in process at the time of his death.
Following the announcement of Abu Hamdiyeh's death, Palestinian prisoners in several jails began banging on their cell doors and hurling objects.
Weizman said three prisoners and six guards were evacuated for medical treatment after inhaling the tear gas on Tuesday.
Palestinian prisoner affairs minister, Issa Karakeh, blamed Israel for the death. "This is a serious, ugly crime committed against the prisoner Maysara due to medical negligence and reluctance to release him," Karakeh said.
In a meeting in Ramallah, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he was working to free Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
"We were surprised with the death of our brother prisoner," Abbas said. "We attempted to have him released and take him for treatment, but the Israeli government refused to release him, which led to his death."
Later Tuesday, protests spread to the West Bank city of Hebron where protesters threw fire bombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers. The troops responded with tear gas and other riot dispersal means, the military said.
Tensions are high in Israeli lockups where thousands of Palestinian security prisoners are being held. Some have held hunger strikes and Palestinians have held large protests demanding their release.
After decades of fighting with Israel, the issue of prisoners is emotionally charged in Palestinian society where inmates are highly esteemed regardless to the reasons of their incarceration, even if they were involved in violence.