JERUSALEM, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Israeli security forces were on high alert Sunday amid fears West Bank clashes would escalate after the death of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail.
Confrontations in the West Bank between protesting Palestinians and Israeli security forces erupted in the Hebron area Sunday morning and 4,500 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israel threatened a one-day hunger strike to protest the death of Arafat Jaradat, 30, who died Saturday in an Israeli prison. Initial reports said Jaradat, who was not one of the hunger-strikers, died of heart failure.
Violence was reported Sunday in Jaradat's village of Sair and other areas around Hebron, Israel Radio reported.
Unrest escalated in the West Bank and areas of east Jerusalem last week with Palestinians demanding the release of four prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails. Jaradat's death Saturday added further fuel to an already tense situation, Israeli military officials said. Israeli Arab Knesset members participated in a protest march in Nazareth.
A statement released by the Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, Sunday said an investigation into Jaradat's death was under way. Jaradat was arrested last Monday for allegedly throwing stones at Israeli vehicles on West Bank highways, Shin Bet said. Doctors examined him a number of times and no medical problems were discovered. However, reports said he went to his cell after eating his midday meal Saturday, saying he did not feel well. Medics summoned to his cell attempted to resuscitate him, to no avail.
Issa Qaraqi, the Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, accused Israel of torturing Jeradat, The Jerusalem Post reported. Qaraqi said an autopsy would be conducted in the presence of a Palestinian coroner, a member of Jaradat's family and his lawyer, Israel Radio said.