Accused of torture, Israel demands Palestinians calm unrest

Israel demanded Palestinian leaders quell unrest as protests and clashes rocked the West Bank on Sunday, after the death of a prisoner who the Palestinians claim died under Israeli torture.

Over 4,000 Palestinian prisoners staged, meanwhile, a one-day hunger strike to protest the death on Saturday of Arafat Jaradat, amid widespread street clashes with Israeli security forces.

Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs Issa Qaraqaa accused Israel of torturing Jaradat to death, citing the preliminary findings of an Israeli-Palestinian autopsy.

Israeli prison authorities had initially said he appeared to have died of a heart attack.

"The evidence corroborates our suspicion that Jaradat died as a result of torture, especially since the autopsy clearly proved that the victim's heart was healthy," Qaraqaa said in a statement.

He said the autopsy carried out at Israel's national forensic institute near Tel Aviv, in the presence of a Palestinian doctor, indicated bruises on Jaradat's torso and damage to muscles, as well as "broken" ribs.

Israel released a similar account of the post mortem but stressed that there were "fractures in the ribs" which "could be testimony to resuscitation efforts."

"These preliminary findings are not sufficient to determine the cause of death," a statement from Israel's health ministry read, noting that microscopic and toxicological findings were still pending.

Earlier on Sunday amid concerns of escalating violence, "Israel passed an unequivocal demand to the Palestinian Authority to calm down the (West Bank) territory," a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said, and "instructed the (tax) money for January to be transferred," it added.

Israel collects tax revenues on the behalf of the Palestinians but in December said it would withhold them in reprisal after the Palestinians successfully pushed their demand for upgraded UN status.

The Israeli appeal came after clashes gained momentum across the West Bank, and ahead of Jaradat's funeral at noon on Monday.

Medical sources said a Palestinian man was seriously wounded after he was hit by live fire near Ramallah, and two others were wounded in the same protest near Ofer prison.

Palestinians clashed with Israeli security forces in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin, AFP correspondents said.

A spokeswoman for the Israel Prison Service told AFP almost all of the 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons marked a one-day fast in protest at Jaradat's death.

Palestinians said Jaradat, 30, from Sair near Hebron in the southern West Bank, was a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

After Sunday's autopsy, Jaradat's body was transferred to a hospital in Hebron ahead of his funeral the next day.

Israel's Shin Bet domestic intelligence service said he had been arrested last Monday for his involvement in a stonethrowing incident in November 2012 during which an Israeli had been injured.

In Sunday's clashes protesters in Sair and around Hebron city Palestinians stoned Israeli security forces who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, witnesses said.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip marched in solidarity.

Relations between Israel and the Palestinians was already tense because of a rising wave of protests in solidarity with four prisoners who have been on hunger strike for several months. Three were hospitalized on Saturday.

The Ramallah-based Prisoners' Club announced Saturday that another seven prisoners had joined them.

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