Thousands mourn Palestinian prisoner, revolt fears grow

Mon Feb 25, 2013 5:46pm EST
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By Noah Browning

SE'EER, West Bank (Reuters) - Masked Palestinian gunmen fired in the air and youths clashed with police on Monday as thousands marched at the West Bank funeral of a prisoner following days of rioting that have stoked Israeli fears of a new uprising.

Israeli police shot and wounded five Palestinian youths during confrontations in Bethlehem and outside a West Bank prison, leaving one 15-year-old boy in a critical condition, Israeli and Palestinian medical sources said.

Arafat Jaradat's death in disputed circumstances in an Israeli jail on Saturday, together with a hunger strike by four other Palestinian inmates, have fuelled mounting tensions, a month ahead of a visit to the region by U.S. President Barack Obama.

On the roof of Jaradat's home in the village of Se'eer, masked Palestinian fired volleys of automatic gunfire into the air in tribute, as dozens of Israeli troops gathered on the outskirts of town.

"We sacrifice our souls and blood for you, our martyr!" mourners chanted.

Elsewhere other youths were wounded by rubber bullets and suffered tear gas inhalation during the latest in a week of clashes that have raised memories the Intifada, Arabic for uprising, which started in 2000 after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks failed.

A previous Intifada, in 1987-1993, led to interim accords and limited Palestinian self-rule.

Israeli Civil Defence Minister Avi Dichter, former chief of the Shin Bet intelligence service, warned a new uprising might start if confrontations with protesters turned deadly.   Continued...

Relatives mourn during the funeral of Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat in the West Bank village of Se'eer, near Hebron February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Ammar Awad