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Pressure Mounts On
Israel As Protests Escalate

By Karin Friedemann


On Saturday, February 23, Mohammed Al Namrooti from Gaza doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire in the street Tibet-style to protest the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

 Daily demonstrations this week in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been answered by Israeli soldiers using tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, and stun grenades.

 Arafat Jaradat, a 33 year old father of two who worked at a West Bank gas station, was arrested for allegedly throwing stones. Days later, Israeli officials reported that Jaradat had died of a heart attack during interrogation at Megiddo Prison on Saturday, February 23.

 Physicians for Human Rights issued a statement casting doubt on the Israeli medical examiner (translated Hebrew):

 "Who is the doctor who operated on the body of Arafat Jaradat, a prisoner who died Saturday at Megiddo Prison? None other than Prof. Yehuda Hiss, who was dismissed from his post in October 2012 as the chief medical examiner of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in the wake of many failures that occurred during the morgue management, including harvesting organs from the bodies, without the consent of the deceased or their families.”

 An autopsy conducted in the presence of Palestinian officials revealed that Arafat Jaradat died of extreme torture in Israeli custody, not cardiac arrest, the PA Minister of Detainee Affairs said Sunday. Issa Qaraqe said Jaradat had six broken bones in his neck, spine, arms and legs.

 Jaradat's lawyer Kameel Sabbagh was the last person to see him:

 "When I entered the courtroom I saw Jaradat sitting on a wooden chair in front of the judge. His back was hunched and he looked sick and fragile. When I sat next to him he told me that he had serious pains in his back and other parts of his body because he was being beaten up and hanged for many long hours while he was being investigated. When Jaradat heard that the judge postponed his hearing he seemed extremely afraid."

 Jadarat was given a hero's funeral in Sa'ir, near Hebron. At least 8,000 people flowed into the streets to pay their respects. Dalal, the martyr’s wife, who is pregnant, announced that she would name her son Arafat, after his father.

 Jaradat’s funeral coincided with the 19th anniversary of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron committed by a Jewish settler from Brooklyn, Baruch Goldstein on February 25, 1994 in the holy month of Ramadan during dawn prayer. Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounded 150 others, while they were in prostration.

 UN envoy Robert Serry warned that "mounting tensions present a real risk of destabilization."

 This week also the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate organized a sit-in strike to protest Israel’s intensified assaults against Palestinian journalists, as several journalists were directly targeted during confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters, Ma’an reports.

 Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba'neh was arrested by occupation forces as he was returning from a visit to Jordan on Feb 16, 2013. Since then, he has been unable to see a lawyer and his family is frantic with worry, as they have no news of him.

 UK human rights group, War on Want called on the British security firm G4S, which provides services to the Israeli Prison Authority, to end all dealings with the Israeli Prison Authority (IPA). G4S made the news in October 2010 when security guards working for Heathrow Airport killed Angolan Jimmy Mubenga aboard a British Airways flight while detaining him for deportation. G4S signs are prominently displayed all around Meggido jail.

 Demanding that G4S "withdraws from contracts to supply Israeli prisons" in the wake of reports of torture, War on Want campaigner Rafeef Ziadah said: "G4S provides equipment and services to Israeli prisons where Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners, are detained and tortured. This British company is profiting from human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. The terrible death of Arafat Jaradat highlights the urgent need for G4S to ends its complicity in Israel's prison system."

 “79 detainees have died in prison since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (in September 2000) due to torture, medical neglect, excessive use of force by the soldiers and interrogators, in addition to several detainees who were executed by the arresting officers,” Palestinian Researcher Abdul-Nasser Farawna stated.

 Hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners held a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with Samer Issawi and fellow long-term strikers Ayman Sharawna, Tarek Qa’adan and Jaafar Azzidine, reports Electronic Intifada. Two of the striking prisoners were hospitalized Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for the Israeli Prisons Service, reports the Washington Post.

 Israel's Jerusalem magistrate court has ruled to release Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi on March 6, 2013. But Issawi's case will now be transferred to a military court which may rule to extend his imprisonment to his complete sentence of 20 years. Activists have quoted Issawi's sister as saying he is continuing his hunger strike in spite of the court ruling.

 International Solidarity Movement reports that nine Palestinians from Hebron, mostly family members of hunger-striking prisoners, are on hunger strike to express support for, and raise awareness of, the plight of Palestinian political prisoners:

 “They began their strike last Saturday, and gained much media attention thanks to their presence in a solidarity tent in Hebron in the midst of Monday’s demonstration in support of prisoners.”

 Teacher Nahil Abu Aisha from Hebron explained, “The whole world needs to know what’s going on here.”

 Meanwhile, the lawyer for Dirar Abu Sisi, the technical director at Gaza’s sole electricity plant, who was kidnapped in Ukraine in 2011 and is currently held in solitary confinement in Israel, is “losing his ability to recall language and has speech impairments, a lawyer who visited him in jail said Sunday,” Ma’an reported.

 Abu Sisi was the only prisoner excluded from a May 2012 deal with Israeli authorities to end solitary confinement, according to prisoners rights group Addameer. The deal, which included several terms to improve prisoners conditions, was made to end an earlier mass hunger strike campaign launched by Palestinian prisoners.

 The worsening condition of the prisoners has brought expressions of concern this week from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union. US president Barack Obama is due to visit Israel and the West Bank next month, largely as a result of European pressure.





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