Hundreds of people took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Feb. 25 in the second day of protests following the death of a Palestinian prisoner who PA officials say died as a result of torture. The PA Minister of Detainee Affairs said that results from an autopsy of Arafat Jadarat’s body indicate that he died after being tortured in Israeli custody, and not from a cardiac arrest, as Israel’s Prison Authority had claimed. Hundreds of people marched from Birzeit University and gathered outside Ofer prison in Ramallah, where Israeli forces fired rubber bullets at the crowds, injuring 11 people. An Israeli army spokeswoman said “500 rioters hurled rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means.” Six people were hit by rubber bullets, she added.
In Bethlehem, 13-year-old Muhammad Khalid al-Kirdi was seriously injured after being shot in the back and foot with live ammunition near Aida camp. Family members told Ma’an that Muhammad underwent surgery in Beit Jala to remove the bullets, and is in a serious but stable condition. Another unidentified teenager was taken to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem after being shot in the head with a rubber bullet, Red Crescent officials said. Two others were injured as youths protested by an Israeli military watchtower near the refugee camp.
An Israeli army spokesman said 150 Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal means. Israeli soldiers, with approval from an officer, used live fire on protesters after several improvised hand grenades were thrown towards Rachel’s Tomb, he added. The specific incident involved 22-mm rounds fired from a Ruger gun.
Israeli military sources said that live ammunition was also used in Hebron, where 200 Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli forces. In Tulkarem, 14 people were lightly injured by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters as protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers, witnesses told Ma’an.
Mourners gather for Jadarat’s funeral
Earlier Feb. 25, thousands of mourners attended the funeral of Arafat Jaradat in the Hebron village of Sair. Gunmen from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fired in the air as his body was carried through the streets, with Jaradat’s mother and pregnant wife collapsing at the funeral. His death on two days earlier sparked outrage in the West Bank and Gaza, where the issue of prisoners resonates deeply with the public.
Robert Serry, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, called for “an independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat’s death, the results of which should be made public as soon as possible.” His office added in a statement: “The United Nations is closely monitoring the situation on the ground where mounting tensions present a real risk of destabilization.”
President Abbas told reporters that “the Israelis want chaos…. We will not allow them to drag us into it and to mess with the lives of our children and our youth. We lost Arafat Jaradat who was arrested and came back in a coffin and this cannot pass lightly. We will not allow them to keep our prisoners in jails all their lives for crimes they didn’t commit.”
From Ma’an News Agency, Feb. 25