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Palestinians call for probe of Israeli prisons

By The Associated Press

This article was published February 24, 2013 at 12:38 p.m.

— Palestinians on Sunday called for an international investigation of Israel’s treatment of detained Palestinians after a 30-year-old Palestinian died in custody and a hunger strike by four other inmates sparked a week of West Bank protests.

The death of Arafat Jaradat set off more clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian stone-throwers in several areas of the West Bank on Sunday. In one incident, two Palestinians were wounded by army fire, including a 15-year-old boy who was shot in the chest, a Palestinian health official said.

Jaradat’s death in prison raised new questions about Israel’s Shin Bet security service, which has been accused by rights groups of mistreating Palestinians during interrogation.

Palestinian officials and the detainee’s family alleged Jaradat was mistreated by the Shin Bet, saying he was healthy at the time of his arrest last week.

Israeli officials said Jaradat died of an apparent heart attack and denied he was beaten or subjected to any treatment that could have led to his death.

Israel’s main forensics institute performed an autopsy Sunday, with a Palestinian physician in attendance, but the results were not immediately disclosed.

Several thousand Palestinian prisoners held by Israel observed a one-day fast to protest Jaradat’s death.

In the West Bank’s largest city, Hebron, dozens of Palestinians threw stones at Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel pellets. Stone-throwing protests also erupted near Jaradat’s village of Saeer in the West Bank and near a West Bank checkpoint that is close to an Israeli prison.

In all, Israel holds close to 4,600 Palestinians on a range of charges, from throwing stones at Israelis to involvement in deadly shooting and bombing attacks. Of the detainees, 159 are being held without charges or trial in so-called administrative detention.

The fate of prisoners is an emotional issue for Palestinians and Israelis.

Virtually every Palestinian family has seen a member imprisoned since Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in 1967, and the prisoners are generally seen as heroes resisting Israeli occupation. Many Israelis tend to view Palestinians involved in politically motivated violence as terrorists.

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