Abbas Warns Israel: Don't Play With Palestinian Lives

Riots break out near West Bank military prison after mass funeral procession for Arafat Jaradat; IDF confirms several Palestinians wounded by rubber bullets, says no live ammunition shot; U.S. Consulate temporarily limits official travel to West Bank; Egypt FM condemns Israel's 'inhumane treatment' of Palestinian prisoners.

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr condemned on Monday what he defined as Israel's inhumane treatment of Palestinian prisoners that led to the death of detainee Arafat Jaradat. In a statement issued by Egypt's foreign minister, Amr warned that Israeli policy could lead to loss of control and tensions not just in the West Bank but the entire region.

Jaradat died in Israel's Megiddo Prison on Saturday. Over 10,000 Palestinians attended a funeral procession for him near Hebron on Monday, where no disturbances were reported.

The foreign minister expressed his condolences to Jaradat's family and called on the international community to intervene and exert pressure on Israel to put a stop to Israel's inhumane policy regarding Palestinian prisoners.

Earlier on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blasted Israel, warning it against "playing with the lives" of Palestinians, and accusing it of using live fire against Palestinian children, in a statement on Jaradat's death.

"We won't allow them to play with the lives of our sons," Abbas said at a memorial ceremony held for those killed in a 1983 bombing of a Palestinian research center in Beirut, adding,"they stand before our children and target them with live fire." 

Abbas demanded an inquiry into Jaradat's death and added that it would hold Israel responsible for the incident. "We won't allow our prisoners to remain behind bars for life due to unfounded charges, he said.

He further accused Israel of trying to generate a situation in which the Palestinians no longer want peace, but stressed: "We demand peace that is based on justice and the uprooting of settlements."

Some 100 Palestinians clashed with IDF forces outside the prison as they protested Jaradat's death. Palestinians reported that 10 people were wounded by IDF fire on Monday afternoon in the West Bank town of Beitounia, next to the Ofer military compound, in clashes that ensued after Jaradat's funeral. The IDF confirmed that six Palestinians were wounded, but claimed the casualties are from rubber bullets and denied it used live ammunition.

In a separate incident in the West Bank Monday evening, Palestinians reported to Israeli human rights organization B'tselem that 13.5 year-old Mohammed Khaled Qurd from the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem was wounded by live fire and evacuated to a hospital in Beit Jala. According to the report, he was wounded by two bullets in his leg and side, leading to internal bleeding in his liver and lungs. The IDF is looking into the report.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a meeting Monday evening with his top security brass to evaluate the situation following three consecutive days of clashes. During the discussion, security officials raised various possible scenarios and ways of coping with them.

Palestinian protester moves burning tire during clashes with Israeli soldiers outside Ofer military prison on February 25, 2013.
The reality of Hebron: Israeli security forces shoot tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters during clashes last year.
Palestinian protester uses sling to throw stone at Israeli military jeeps in clashes  near the West Bank city of Nablus on February 25, 2013.
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Palestinian protester moves burning tire during clashes with Israeli soldiers outside Ofer military prison on February 25, 2013.Credit: Reuters
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The reality of Hebron: Israeli security forces shoot tear gas canisters at Palestinian protesters during clashes last year.Credit: AFP
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Palestinian protester uses sling to throw stone at Israeli military jeeps in clashes near the West Bank city of Nablus on February 25, 2013.Credit: Reuters

U.S. temporarily bans official travel

Also on Monday, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem issued a statement announcing a temporary ban on official travel for American citizens due to ensuing West Bank clashes.

"Due to demonstrations occurring at locations across the West Bank, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem has temporarily limited official travel to the West Bank by U.S. Government personnel. In addition, personal travel to Bethlehem by U.S. Government personnel is temporarily suspended. U.S. citizens are advised to defer non-essential travel to and within the West Bank and to exercise an extra measure of caution during this period," the statement read.

"The U.S. Consulate General takes this opportunity to remind U.S. citizens that demonstrations, even peaceful ones, can turn violent with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid large crowds."

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces outside Ofer military prison in the West Bank.Credit: Reuters

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