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JERUSALEM: Israel yesterday demanded the Palestinian Authority stem a surge of anti-Israeli protests ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the region next month.
A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave no indication the Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, would issue any call for calm, and blamed Israel for the spike in unrest. The death in an Israeli jail of a Palestinian detainee on Saturday and an on-going hunger strike by four inmates have fuelled tensions in the West Bank, where stone-throwing protesters clashed again with Israeli soldiers on Sunday.
Some 3,000 prisoners held a one-day fast yesterday after the detainee’s death, which Israel said was caused by a heart attack, an explanation challenged by Palestinian officials.
“Israel has conveyed to the Palestinian Authority an unequivocal demand to calm the territory,” an Israeli government official said, adding the message was delivered by one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top aides.
As an apparent incentive to Palestinian leaders to intervene, Israel pledged to proceed with this month’s transfer to the Authority of around $100m in tax revenues that it collects on its behalf. Israel began withholding the funds, money the Palestinian Authority badly needs to pay public sector salaries, after Abbas secured UN de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood in November. Under international pressure, Israel announced it would release $100m to the Palestinian Authority last month.
In the latest clashes, hundreds of Palestinian protesters, in several towns and villages in the West Bank, hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. There were no reports of serious injuries in the confrontations, after a wave of violent protests last week in solidarity with the four hunger-striking prisoners. Some 4,700 Palestinians are in Israeli jails, many of them convicted of anti-Israeli attacks and others detained without trial.