RAMALLAH, West Bank – The mysterious death of a 30-year-old Palestinian gas station attendant in Israeli custody stoked new West Bank clashes Sunday, along with Israeli fears of a third Palestinian uprising.
A senior Palestinian official alleged that Arafat Jaradat was tortured by Israel’s Shin Bet security service, citing an autopsy he said revealed bruising and two broken ribs.
Israel’s Health Ministry said the autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death but that the bruising and broken ribs were likely the result of attempts to revive the detainee.
Jaradat’s death came at a time of rising West Bank tensions, including several days of Palestinian marches in support of four hunger-striking prisoners in Israeli lockups. In all, Israel holds nearly 4,600 Palestinians, including dozens who have never been formally charged.
Over the weekend, Israel’s army chief convened senior commanders to discuss the growing unrest.
Jaradat’s death is liable to become the opening shot in a third uprising, Israeli military commentator Alex Fishman wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily Sunday, arguing that the Palestinian street has been boiling with anger for a number of weeks now.
However, Israeli officials have previously expressed concern about a new uprising, only to see bursts of Palestinian protests fizzle.
The first uprising, marked by stone-throwing protests and commercial strikes, erupted in the late 1980s and led to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The second uprising broke out in 2000, after failed talks on a final peace deal, and it was far deadlier, with Israel reoccupying the West Bank after bombings and shootings.
Former Palestinian security chief Jibril Rajoub, speaking in Hebrew on Israel Radio, tried to reassure Israelis, declaring Sunday on behalf of the entire Palestinian leadership that there is no plan to lead to bloodshed.
Jaradat, from the village of Saeer, died Saturday in Megiddo Prison in northern Israel, six days after his arrest on suspicion of stone throwing.