RAMALLAH // The Palestinian Authority yesterday called for a international investigation into the interrogation methods used on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails following the death of a 30-year-old in custody whose autopsy report that described "extensive signs of beatings" on the body.
The report, by a Palestinian doctor who attended the autopsy yesterday at Israel's main forensics institute, said the injuries to Arafat Jaradat's body - that included bruising, signs of lashings and broken ribs - show he died of "shock" and not from a heart attack as the Israeli prison authorities claimed.
"These results prove Israel killed him," Issa Qaraqaa, the PA's minister of detainees, told a news conference in Ramallah where he released parts of the report. Earlier in the day he had called for an international investigation to determine if Jaradat had been tortured to death.
Mark Regev, spokesperson for Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declined to comment on the report. "We don't want to comment until we release the material" from the autopsy to the public, "he said.
More than 3,000 Palestinian prisoners yesterday went on a hunger strike protesting Jaradat's death while rallies, inspired by four Palestinian prisoners carrying out long-term hunger strikes, escalated in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Also fuelling the unrest have been clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers and Israeli security forces, including one on Saturday in which a Palestinian man in the West Bank village of Qusra was shot in the stomach.
In sign of concern over West Bank stability, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, yesterday sent "an unequivocal demand" to Palestinian leaders to subdue the demonstrations. He also ordered Israeli authorities to hand over January's tax revenues collected on behalf of Palestinians, in an apparent attempt to shore up the PA's dire economic state. Israel stopped disbursing PA tax money in response to Palestinian recognition last year as a non-member observer state in the United Nations.
The withholding of that money has exacerbated an acute Palestinian financial crisis and added to the frustration of roughly 150,000 PA employees angered by the West Bank administration's inability to pay their salaries on time.
Israel's acting parliamentary speaker warned on Israel Radio yesterday that Israelis "are on the eve of an intifada" and said a resumption of peace negotiations was required to reduce Palestinian frustration.
"I have been warning of this for many months. I know these guys and I see the signs," Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said. "As someone who has gone through two intifadas, I say this time it will be the bloodiest."
Frustrated by the squabbling between the factions of Fatah in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers and the lack of progress in resuming in peace talks with Israel that broke down in 2010, Palestinians have rallied in support of prisoners in Israel's jails. More than 4,800 Palestinians are behind bars in Israeli custody, with 178 of them detained without trial or charge, according to statistics provided by Addameer, a Palestinian NGO concerned with prisoners' rights.
Jaradat, a father of two, was arrested last week at his home in a village near the city of Hebron for his alleged involvement in a November 2012 stone-throwing incident against an Israeli. Israel's internal Shin Bet security agency said Israeli doctors examined Jaradat "numerous times" during his interrogation and said he was healthy. But Jaradat fell ill in his cell at Israel's Meggido prison shortly after midday on Saturday, the Shin Bet said in a statement that added: "Rescue services and a doctor were alerted and treated him, they didn't succeed in saving his life."
But Jaradat's family and Palestinian officials contend he was beaten during his detention. Hassan Abd Rabbo, spokesman for the PA ministry of detainees, said Jaradat told his lawyer of abuse when they met at a military-court hearing on Thursday.
"He said they hit him on his back and his neck, and he said there was pain all over his body," said Mr Abd Rabbo.
Mourad Jadallah, a legal researcher at Addameer, said the military judge presiding over Thursday's hearing had ordered a physical and psychological examination of Jaradat before Shin Bet officials could carry out further interrogation.
* Additional reporting by Associated Press