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Palestinian prisoner given hero's funeral

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By The Washington Post
Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 9:54 p.m.

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian prisoner who died in an Israeli jail was given a hero's burial with military honors in the West Bank on Monday amid signs that Palestinian and Israeli leaders were working to prevent days of street clashes from triggering a wider eruption of unrest.

The surge of protests, which had stoked Israeli fears of a third Palestinian uprising, was sparked by an extended hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners and fueled by the death of a fifth detainee, Arafat Jaradat, who was under interrogation by Israel's Shin Bet security agency.

Palestinian officials said an Israeli autopsy attended by the Palestinian Authority's chief forensic pathologist showed that Jaradat had been tortured. But Israeli health officials contend that the preliminary findings did not indicate a cause of death and that further tests were needed.

Draped in a Palestinian flag, Jaradat's body was taken to his village of Sa'ir, north of Hebron, with an honor guard of Palestinian security officers, who fired a 21-gun salute near the gravesite.

Thousands joined the funeral procession, which was punctuated by shots fired by masked gunmen of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. A statement by the group distributed to the crowd vowed to avenge Jaradat's death.

“We promise the Zionist occupation that we will respond to this crime,” it said.

But Abbas sounded a different note in remarks at his headquarters in Ramallah, urging Palestinians not to be swept up in a cycle of deadly confrontation with the Israelis.

“The Israelis want chaos, and we know how to act,” he said. “We won't let them play with the lives of our sons.”

“No matter how much they try to drag us back to their square, we will not be dragged,” Abbas added. “They bear the responsibility.”

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