Al-Akhbar, Ma’an, AFP
Sunday, February 24, 2013

Palestinian prisoner's death triggers mass hunger strike

Updated 3:00pm: At least 3,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel began a one-day hunger strike on Sunday as hundreds of protesters rallied in Gaza and the West Bank after the death of a prisoner one day earlier.

Arafat Jaradat was arrested Monday for his suspected involvement in a stone throwing incident. He died Saturday in the Israeli jail of Megiddo, allegedly succumbing to cardiac arrest while being interrogated by the Israeli army. He was 30 years old, and is survived by his wife and two young children.

"Jaradat was being interrogated and then he died. Therefore we call for an international investigation into his death, that may have resulted from torture," Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainees Issa Qaraqe told Ma’an news agency.

Although Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, claimed that Jaradat had pre-existing health issues – including injuries caused by a rubber bullet and a tear gas canister, weapons regularly used by the Israeli army – his family said that Jaradat was in good health prior to his arrest.

A PA ministry of detainees official said Saturday that the ministry would request the presence of a Palestinian doctor to conduct the autopsy, and called upon the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross to take part in the examination.

Media sources estimate between 3,000 and 4,500 Palestinian prisoners were participating in a one-day hunger strike to protest Jaradat’s death.

Seven prisoners also began open-ended hunger strikes according to the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, joining the ranks of Samer Issawi, Ayman Sharawneh, Jaafar Ezzedine, and Tarek Qa'adan.

Issawi, who has been on a hunger strike for close to 215 days, was sentenced Thursday to eight months in jail for allegedly violating the terms of his release from a previous sentence, sparking protests amid growing concern over his deteriorating health.

Protesters in Jaradat’s home village of Sair and in the Hebron area hurled stones at Israeli security forces on Sunday. The Israeli forces responded with tear gas and stun grenades, witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Solidarity marches took place in the Gaza Strip in memory of Jaradat.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy has made "an unequivocal demand" to the Palestinian Authority to quell the protests.

"Israel passed an unequivocal demand to the Palestinian Authority to calm down the territory," envoy Yitzhak Molcho said.

According to prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer, 4,812 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of February 1, including 178 administrative detainees.

Israel’s policy of administrative detention and the poor living conditions in Israeli prisons breach international human rights accords, and were denounced earlier this month by the European Union.