Israel demands Palestine reduce tensions

Source:Agencies Published: 2013-2-25 0:03:00

Israel said on Sunday it sent "an unequivocal demand" to Palestinian leaders to quell unrest, as thousands of detainees staged hunger strikes in Israeli prisons and their supporters clashed with security forces in the occupied West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the same time ordered the transfer of January arrears of tax revenues that Israel collects on the behalf of the Palestinians but has been withholding, the government said in a statement.

"Israel passed an unequivocal demand to the Palestinian Authority to calm down the territory," the statement said.

"In order that the non-payment of taxes that Israel collects for the Palestinians should not serve as an excuse for the Palestinian Authority not to calm the territory, Netanyahu instructed the money for January to be transferred," it added.

A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave no indication the Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, would issue any call for calm, and blamed Israel for the spike in unrest.

Protests in the West Bank have been mounting, both in support of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, 11 of whom are on open-ended hunger strike, and against settlement expansion.

An official said almost all Palestinians in Israeli prisons were on a one-day hunger strike Sunday in protest at the sudden death of an inmate due to what authorities said appeared to have been cardiac arrest.

"It's 4,500, nearly everyone in fact," Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman told AFP.

Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two, from Sair near Hebron in the southern West Bank, died on Saturday in an Israeli jail from what prison authorities said appeared to have been cardiac arrest.

Protesters in his village and around Hebron city on Sunday stoned Israeli security forces who responded with tear gas and stun grenades, Palestinian witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

"In Hebron there are 100 Palestinians hurling rocks and rolling burning tyres at security forces," an Israeli army spokeswoman told AFP, adding that a smaller group clashed with Israeli forces in the Halhul area, on the city's outskirts.

She said the army responded with "riot disposal means," without elaborating.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip marched in solidarity.

Israeli media link the unrest and Israel's concerns about possible escalation to next month's visit by US President Barack Obama to the Jewish state and to the Palestinians.

"Officials in Jerusalem will begin to look for all kinds of ways to appease the Palestinians and to cool tempers on the ground," the Yediot Aharonot newspaper said on Sunday.

AFP - Reuters



Posted in: Mid-East

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