The US on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint and avoid making combative statements following the death of Palestinian inmate Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli prison on Saturday.
“We’re sending a clear message to both sides here in terms of restraint,” State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington. “We urge both Palestinians and Israelis not only to refrain from provocative actions that could destabilize conditions on the ground but to consider positive steps, re-establish trust and de-escalate the current tensions.”
Palestinian protests in the West Bank flared up on Sunday and Monday after the Palestinian Authority charged that Israel had tortured Jaradat to death. Israel said the 30-year-old father of two died from a heart attack, but a Palestinian pathologist who was invited to take part in his autopsy said he saw signs of torture. Israel said markings on Jaradat’s body were consistent with medical attempts to resuscitate him, but that determining the official cause of death would have to wait for additional test results.
“Israel is killing our children with live fire,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas said at an address in Ramallah Monday, adding that he would not let Israel “play with the lives of our people” and would not allow Palestinians to waste away in Israeli jails.
A 13-year-old Palestinian boy was seriously injured in clashes Monday. The boy was evacuated to a hospital in Beit Jala in serious condition after suffering a gunshot wound to the chest, Palestinian reports said.
“We understand that the Israeli government is looking carefully into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat’s death,” Ventrell added. “We expect all parties to consider the results of the autopsy calmly and without inflammatory rhetoric.”
The United States on Monday warned citizens to limit travel to the West Bank in light of the ongoing protests taking place in Ramallah, Hebron, and several other locations.
The US cautioned that it was temporarily limiting travel to the West Bank for its government personnel, and suspending travel altogether to the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
“US 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 US Consulate General takes this opportunity to remind US citizens that demonstrations, even peaceful ones, can turn violent with little or no warning. US citizens should be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid large crowds,” it said in an official warning.
Israel’s security forces braced for major demonstrations surrounding Jaradat’s funeral on Monday. But although there were numerous relatively low-level disturbances in the West Bank, the funeral itself passed without major incident.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday night held a situation assessment with senior defense officials at his Tel Aviv office. The officials, including IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Israel Police Deputy Commissioner Yisrael Yitzhak, discussed strategies to quell the violence in the area.