Thousands attend funeral of Palestinian who died in Israeli prison

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of Palestinians attended the West Bank funeral of a Palestinian prisoner who died in an Israeli prison days after being arrested for participating in attacks on Israelis.

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Arafat Jaradat, 39, reportedly was buried with military honors Monday, in a village near Hebron. He died Saturday of a heart attack in the Megiddo jail in northern Israel.

News of his death prompted the announcement of a three-day hunger strike by Palestinians in Israeli prisons, and clashes intensified throughout the West Bank.

The funeral follows days of escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.  The West Bank has seen tensions mount recently over the status of Palestinian prisoners, some held without trial for years under administrative detention. Some of the prisoners have been on extended hunger strikes.

An autopsy was conducted on Jaradat on Sunday afternoon at Israel’s Abu Kabir Center for Forensic Medicine, The Health Ministry said in a statement that no signs of trauma apart from those pertaining to resuscitation attempts were found on the body, and that no evidence of disease were found. The coroner is now waiting for microscopic and toxicology reports in order to determine the cause of death, according to the statement. “The initial findings cannot determine the cause of death,” the statement said.

The autopsy was conducted in the presence of a Palestinian pathologist and family members. 

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, fellow Megiddo prisoners said Jaradat fell ill after being tortured. Israeli authorities said Jaradat was known to suffer from back pains and other maladies arising from previous clashes with Israeli troops, the newspaper said.

Following the autopsy, Palestinian officials said that Jaradat was tortured before his death and died from that torture.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem announced that it has limited official travel to the West Bank by U.S. government personnel and suspended personal travel to Bethlehem due to the demonstrations over Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

The consulate statement issued Monday also advised U.S, citizens to “defer non-essential travel to and within the West Bank and to exercise an extra measure of caution during this period.”

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