Palestinian prisoner's death could start a new uprising

Arafat Jaradat died in Israeli detention after being arrested for throwing stones at cars. Credit: ITV News

The masked gunmen on the rooftops overlooking the crowds were silhouetted against the morning sun and for a moment seemed like shadows of earlier, violent uprisings.

They were the men of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and they fired volley after volley into the air as the funeral procession approached.

It was to honour a fallen comrade. Arafat Jaradat, an apparently fit and healthy man of thirty, who died in Israeli detention at the weekend.

He’d been arrested for throwing stones at cars. Israeli authorities at first blamed his death on heart failure. Now they say an autopsy has proved inconclusive.

But the Palestinians, and their own doctors, are convinced he died after a beating.

He leaves a pregnant wife, young children and a mother who told me today:

Arafat Jaradat's mother said the Israelis have taken everything Credit: I

His funeral gave another twist to a week of spiraling violence across the West Bank.

Days of confrontation, of rocks and petrol bombs answered by tear gas and rubber bullets, have left 150 Palestinians injured.

The protests aim to highlight the treatment of Palestinian prisoners, many held without trial. Four have been on a long-term hunger strike.

Palestinians protest in the West Bank

Israel accuses the Palestinian Authority of deliberately fanning the flames of unrest ahead of President Obama’s visit here, scheduled for next month.

There seems little appetite on the West Bank for a third, armed intifada, or uprising. The weapons we saw today were directed to the skies; not towards Israeli soldiers.

But if the President is coming with a bold new peace plan in mind, his mission seems in trouble before it’s started.