Agence France Presse
Published — Wednesday 27 February 2013
Last update 26 February 2013 11:02 pm
GAZA CITY: Gaza fighters from Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fired a rocket at Israel yesterday as a “preliminary response” after one of its members died in an Israeli jail.
It was the first time a Gaza rocket had struck southern Israel in more than three months, and stoked fears that the mass protests in the West Bank over the fate of prisoners held in Israeli jails could spread to the Hamas-run territory.
Following weeks of anger in support of four prisoners on long-term hunger strike, the issue came to head on Saturday with news that a 30-year-old prisoner who had been interrogated for throwing stones, had died in custody.
Arafat Jaradat was arrested on Feb. 18 and interrogated by Israel’s Shin Bet internal security services on suspicion of involvement in a “stone-throwing terror attack” in November. Five days later, he died in Megiddo prison.
His death sparked angry demonstrations across the West Bank, with Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqaa saying preliminary results from his autopsy showed he had died “as a result of torture.”
“In a preliminary response to the killing of our hero the prisoner Arafat Jaradat, we claim responsibility for firing a Grad rocket on Ashkelon at 6 a.m. (0400 GMT),” the Gaza branch said in a statement.
The rocket struck a road just south of the Israeli port city, causing damage but no injuries, police said.
Meanwhile Palestinian police were yesterday preventing demonstrators from reaching an area near Jalame checkpoint in the northern West Bank where several mass protests have erupted into violence in the past 10 days.
Earlier, Abbas had instructed the security forces to “maintain the calm” in the West Bank.
US sent a “clear message” to both sides calling for calm, a State Department spokesman said, indicating it expected “all parties to consider the results of the autopsy calmly and without inflammatory rhetoric.”