Ramallah: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that Israel was deliberately seeking to stoke unrest in the occupied West Bank but that Palestinians would not be provoked.
“The Israelis want chaos and we know it but we won’t let them,” Abbas said in comments at his West Bank headquarters, seemingly in response to an Israeli demand on Sunday that he calm a wave of protest in the territory.
“We want peace and freedom for our prisoners and no matter how hard they try to drag us into their schemes, we will not be dragged,” he said.
Protests in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons have been building and gained new momentum with the sudden death in his cell on Saturday of 30-year-old Arafat Jaradat, a former member of Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Palestinian officials accuse Israel of torturing him to death.
“We lost Arafat Jaradat who was arrested and came back in a coffin and this cannot pass lightly,” Abbas said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday that “Israel passed an unequivocal demand to the Palestinian Authority to calm down the [West Bank] territory.”
Meanwhile, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Abbas’s Fatah movement, vowed to avenge the death of the prisoner they say was tortured in an Israeli jail.
“This horrific crime will not go unpunished and we promise the Zionist occupation that we will respond to this crime,” said a statement distributed to crowds at the funeral of Arafat Jaradat, while masked members of the group fired assault rifles into the air, AFP journalists at the scene reported.
They were among thousands of people, many waving Fatah banners or Palestinian flags, who flocked to Sair, Jaradat’s home village near the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank, for his burial there.
“Al Aqsa brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah national liberation movement, mourns with all pride its hero, the martyr of freedom, the prisoner Arafat Jaradat,” the statement said, in reference to Jaradat’s membership of the group.
Israeli forces stayed just outside the village.