Israel demands end to protests in West Bank
Israel yesterday demanded the Palestinian Authority stem a surge of anti-Israeli protests ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month.
A senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gave no indication the Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, would issue any call for calm, and blamed Israel for the sharp rise in unrest.
The death in an Israeli jail of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian detainee, on Saturday and a hunger strike by four inmates have fuelled tensions in the West Bank, where stone-throwing protesters clashed again with Israeli soldiers yesterday. A statement from the office of Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad expressed "deep sorrow and shock over the martyrdom of prisoner Arafat Jaradat in Israeli occupation prisons".
Meanwhile, an Israeli government official said Israel had "conveyed to the Palestinian Authority an unequivocal demand to calm the territory", adding the message was delivered by one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top aides.
As an apparent incentive to Palestinian leaders to intervene, Israel pledged to proceed with this month's transfer to the Authority of around US$100 million in tax revenues that it collects on its behalf.
Israel began withholding the funds, money the Authority badly needs to pay public sector salaries, after Abbas secured UN de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood in November.
Under international pressure, Israel announced it would release US$100 million to the Palestinian Authority last month.
In the latest clashes, hundreds of Palestinian protesters in towns and villages in the West Bank hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. There were no reports of serious injuries.