A Palestinian protestor clashes with Israeli security forces near Jenin on February 26, 2013
A Palestinian protestor holds his national flag as others flash the sign for victory during clashes with Israeli security forces at the entrance of the Jalama checkpoint, near Jenin on February 26, 2013. Thousands of mourners attended a tense funeral in the West Bank of a prisoner Palestinians say was tortured to death in an Israeli jail, as masked militants vowed vengeance. © Saif Dahlah - AFP/File
A Palestinian protestor clashes with Israeli security forces near Jenin on February 26, 2013
Samih Shahine, AFP
Last updated: February 28, 2013

Militants vow revenge over Palestinian prisoner death

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 told AFP, in the second Israeli appeal for calm in as many days.

"Ultimately, not violence but peace talks are what is needed."

Palestinian president Mahmud 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 Jaradat," 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.

Israel on Sunday sent an "unequivocal demand" to the PA "to calm down" the West Bank, where passions flared after Jaradat's sudden death that led to Palestinian accusations that he was tortured in jail.

"The Israelis want chaos and we know it, but we won't let them," Abbas said on Monday. "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 told AFP 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 on Monday but said the disturbances were minor with no injuries.

But Palestinian medics said that seven people were lightly wounded by Israeli army live fire as 500 Palestinians protested near Ofer prison and military camp, near Ramallah.

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

But on Sunday, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqaa, citing the preliminary findings of an Israeli-Palestinian autopsy, reported bruises on Jaradat's body, muscle damage and broken ribs.

Israel said the fractured ribs could have been caused by efforts to resuscitate him.

An Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman said three hunger-strikers were Monday still in hospitals where they were taken at the end of last week for checkups, but she could not divulge details of their medical condition.

Rights organisations and Palestinian prisoner support groups say the three, and a fourth prisoner under observation in the medical wing of a prison in central Israel, have been on hunger strike for several months.

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

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