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ramallah: Thousands of angry mourners attended the West Bank funeral of a man who the Palestinians say was tortured to death in an Israeli jail, as masked militants vowed to take revenge.
Israel reacted to the threat by demanding that the Palestinian Authority (PA) act “responsibly” to rein in unrest, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev calling for peace talks not violence.
“Israel expects the Palestinian Authority to act responsibly to prevent incitement and violence which will only exacerbate the situation,” Regev said, in the second Israeli appeal for calm in as many days.
“Ultimately, not violence but peace talks are what is needed.”Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas earlier accused Israel of trying to sow “chaos” in the occupied West Bank but said that his people would not be provoked into violence.
However, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Abbas’s Fatah movement, vowed to avenge the death of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two, who died in an Israeli prison on Saturday, allegedly from torture. “This horrific crime will not go unpunished and we promise the Zionist occupation that we will respond to this crime,” the militants said in a statement.
The threat was issued as Jaradat was buried in Sair, his West Bank home, with masked militants firing assault rifles into the air and angry mourners who flooded the village waving Fatah banners and Palestinian flags. Israeli forces stayed just outside Sair. Al Aqsa Brigades, of which Jaradat was a member, “mourns with pride its hero, the martyr of freedom, the prisoner Arafat Jaradzt,” the Brigades said.
Protests demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and in solidarity with several hunger strikers have rocked the West Bank over the past weeks.
Senior Hamas leader Salah Al Bardawil urged resistance fighters to kidnap Israeli soldiers at a rally to protest the death of a Palestinian in Israeli custody.
Hamas organised two huge rallies in Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to protest the death of 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat in Megiddo prison.
Speaking at the rally in Khan Younis, Al Bardawil urged the fighters to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit led to the release of over 1,000 Palestinians in 2011 in a prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel.
“The Israelis want chaos and we know it, but we won’t let them,” Abbas said. “We want peace and freedom for our prisoners, and no matter how hard they try to drag us into their schemes, we will not be dragged.”
Israeli media have linked the unrest and concerns over a possible escalation to next month’s visit by US President Barack Obama to the Jewish state and the Palestinian territories.
An Israeli security source said that defence officials were in constant contact with their Palestinian counterparts.
An Israeli military spokesman reported “scattered protests here and there” in the West Bank yesterday but said the disturbances were minor with no injuries.