A Palestinian protester holds stones during clashes with
Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Masked Palestinian gunmen fired in the air as thousands
marched at the West Bank funeral of a prisoner whose death in
an Israeli jail has raised fears in Israel of a new uprising.
Arafat Jaradat's death on Saturday and a hunger strike by
four other Palestinian inmates have raised tension in the
occupied territory after repeated clashes between
stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers in recent days.
Israeli troops, on high alert, took up positions outside
Jaradat's home village of Se'eer, in earshot of bursts of
automatic fire from the half-dozen masked Palestinians in
full battle dress.
"We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, our martyr!"
In confrontations with stone-throwers elsewhere in the West
Bank, Israeli soldiers wounded at least six Palestinians.
Doctors said some of the injuries were gunshot wounds, though
the army said it used non-lethal weapons only.
The scenes were reminiscent of the Intifada, Arabic for
uprising, that started in 2000 after Israeli-Palestinian
peace talks failed. A previous Intifada, in 1987-1993, led to
interim accords and limited Palestinian self-rule.
Israeli Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter, former chief of
the Shin Bet intelligence service, warned that a new uprising
may start if confrontations with protesters turned deadly.
The Israeli military said dozens of Palestinians had thrown
stones at soldiers in various parts of the West Bank on
Monday. Troops responded with teargas and stun grenades, the
"The previous two Intifadas ... came about as a result of a
high number of dead (during protests)," Dichter told Israel
Radio. "Fatalities are almost a proven recipe for a sharper
With Palestinian protests in the West Bank increasing in
frequency in recent months, and Israeli crackdowns often
causing casualties, both sides worry about a wider eruption
Jaradat, 30, was arrested a week ago for throwing stones at
Israeli cars in the West Bank.
Palestinian officials said he had died after being tortured
in prison. But Israel said an autopsy carried out in the
presence of a Palestinian coroner was inconclusive and that
injuries such as broken ribs could have been caused by
efforts to revive Jaradat.
Robert Serry, the U.N. coordinator for the Middle East peace
process, called for "an independent and transparent
investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat's death,
the results of which should be made public as soon as
"The United Nations is closely monitoring the situation on
the ground where mounting tensions present a real risk of
destabilisation," Serry's office said in a statement.
Palestinian frustration has been fuelled by Israel's
settlement expansion in the West Bank, peace negotiations in
limbo since 2010 and a rift between President Mahmoud Abbas's
Palestinian Authority and the armed Islamists of Hamas who
run Gaza and reject coexistence with the Jewish state.
"We have no choice but to continue the popular resistance and
escalate it in the face of the occupation, whether it be the
army or the settlers," Mahmoud Aloul, a senior member of
Abbas's Fatah movement, told Reuters.
In Se'eer, local merchant Abu Issa, 45, said he was unsure
whether what he described as Palestinian opposition to
Israeli occupation would lead to an uprising.
"One day the Palestinian people will take a stand, but I
don't know if that day is today," he said.
Abbas has said he will not allow a third armed Intifada.
"The Israelis want chaos... We will not allow them to drag us
into it and to mess with the lives of our children and our
youth," Abbas told reporters in the West Bank town of
Dichter said Israel had to tread carefully in dealing with
protests, accusing the Palestinians of trying to portray
themselves as victims before U.S. President Barack Obama's
visit to the region next month.
"I don't think the Palestinian Authority will gain from an
Intifada, just as it didn't achieve anything from the first
or second Intifadas," he said.
"But I would say that, after conducting themselves with poor
and warped thinking over the years, they don't always
recognise what's in their best interests."
Israel demanded on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority curb
the protests, many of which have taken place in areas outside
the Authority's jurisdiction.
"They (the Palestinians) are trying to drag us to a situation
where there will be dead children," Dichter said.
Palestinians have rallied to the cause of the four
hunger-strikers, two of whom are being held without trial on
suspicion of anti-Israeli activity.
Some 4,700 Palestinians are in Israeli jails and Palestinians
see them as heroes in a struggle for statehood.
The death of any of the hunger-strikers, one of whom has been
refusing food, off and on, for more than 200 days, would
likely lead to more widespread violence.
Israel killed more than 4,500 Palestinians in the second
Intifada, and more than 1,000 Israelis were also killed, half
of them in Palestinian suicide attacks mostly against