The death of 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli jail on Saturday and a hunger strike by Palestinian inmates have flared tensions across the West Bank, where stone-throwing protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers on Sunday.
In the latest clashes, hundreds of Palestinian protesters in several West Bank towns and villages hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. There were no reports of serious injuries in the confrontations, which follow a wave of violent protests last week in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners.
Mid-morning, some 100 Palestinians threw stones at IDF troops near Hebron. Soldiers responded with crowd-control tactics. The Palestinian Ma'an news agency reported soon afterward that stores in Hebron were closed, and that some 200 protesters had gathered in the center of the city. According to the report, IDF troops fired rubber bullets at the demonstrators.
As the IDF prepared early in the afternoon for Jaradat's funeral in the West Bank village of Sair, riots were reported in the area. Israel later announced the funeral would be held today - not yesterday, as was originally believed - shortly before transferring his body to the Palestinian Authority.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message through his envoy Isaac Molho, demanding that the Palestinian Authority take control of the rioters. Palestinian police, however, refused to disperse protests held in Jaradat's memory.
Some 200 Palestinians continued rioting in central Hebron, hurling stones and torching tires. An IDF soldier was lightly wounded by a stone. IDF troops responded with crowd-control measures, including firing rubber bullets.
Nearby, in the town of Beit Ummar, some 150 Palestinians started hurling stones around 2 P.M. IDF troops responded with tear gas and stun grenades. Riots in Beitounia, held by some 40 Palestinians, were met with a similar response by the IDF.
Palestinians reported about half an hour later that one protester was wounded by rubber bullets during clashes with IDF troops in Hebron. A Palestinian youth who was moderately wounded by gunfire in the village of Qusra on Saturday was transferred from a Nablus hospital to the Hadassah Ein Kerem medical center in Jerusalem due to his deteriorating condition.
Disturbances spread about a half hour later to the Palestinian village of Hawara, south of Nablus, where some 50 Palestinians rioted.
By mid-afternoon, a Palestinian mob assembled near Rachel's Tomb. Six grenades and a fire bomb were hurled at IDF troops, according to a Channel 10 report. A Palestinian was wounded by gunfire during the riot at Rachel's Tomb.
The 15-year-old son of a Palestinian security services chief was wounded by IDF gunfire in a protest near the Beitounia Crossing at about 5 P.M. According to sources in Ramallah, the teen underwent surgery and was in stable condition. A 20-year-old protester was also wounded by live fire, the sources said.
On a road near Nablus, an Israeli woman sustained a head wound from a thrown stone.
Late last night the IDF said it saw no indication that the wider Palestinian public is interested in a third intifada or a major conflict with Israel.
Amos Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, questioned whether the protests were merely a tactical move by the Palestinians to draw international attention before U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. But, he added in an Israel Radio interview: "Things can get out of control."
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Abbas aide, said Israel's treatment of prisoners and anti-Palestinian violence committed by Jewish settlers were "the cause of the deterioration."