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Palestinian prisoners stage fast over inmate death

image captionMr Jaradat's body was handed over to grieving relatives and friends on Sunday, following an autopsy that drew conflicting interpretations

Thousands of Palestinian prisoners are refusing food for one day in protest at the death of a fellow detainee.

Arafat Jaradat, 30, appeared to have died of a heart attack on Saturday, the Israeli prison service said.

Palestinians said an autopsy performed on Sunday revealed signs of torture, but Israelis said injuries were probably from attempts at resuscitation and that key tests were still needed.

Israel has launched an investigation into what happened.

Mr Jaradat's death comes after a week of violent clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinian youths over the continued detention of four hunger strikers.

The clashes continued on Sunday, fuelled by news of Mr Jaradat's death.

Stone-throwing protesters in the West Bank towns of Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and elsewhere faced off with Israeli soldiers deploying tear gas and stun grenades.

One Palestinian man was said to have been seriously wounded after being hit with live rounds.

In Gaza City, women gathered with flags and posters to protest at the conditions of more than 4,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

'Heart was healthy'

At least 3,000 Palestinian prisoners are believed to have refused meals on Sunday in protest at Mr Jaradat's death.

Mr Jaradat, a father of two from the village of Sair, near Hebron, in the southern West Bank, died suddenly on Saturday in Israeli's Megido prison.

image captionWomen gathered in Gaza City to protest against Mr Jaradat's death

He was arrested last week on suspicion of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.

Palestinian human rights groups have suggested Mr Jaradat died either during or shortly after interrogation.

On Sunday, Mr Jaradat's body underwent an autopsy attended by a Palestinian pathologist.

A preliminary findings statement said that "no signs of external injury were found apart from marks of resuscitation and a small friction on the right side of the chest".

But it added that "the preliminary findings are not sufficient to determine the cause of death", saying the results of additional tests had not yet been received.

This judgment was dismissed by Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Issa Karake, who said the Palestinian doctor attending the autopsy had told him there was no sign of a heart attack.

"The evidence corroborates our suspicion that Jaradat died as a result of torture, especially since the autopsy clearly proved that the victim's heart was healthy," Mr Karake said in a statement.

He called for an independent international inquiry into Israel's treatment of Palestinian detainees.

Earlier, an envoy for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made "an unequivocal demand" to the Palestinian Authority to calm the surge of protests.

But a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Israel for the upsurge in anger - and analysts say the protests seem likely to continue in light of the claims surrounding the death of Mr Jaradat, who is due to be buried on Monday.

A statement from the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday expressed "deep sorrow and shock over the martyrdom of prisoner Arafat Jaradat".

As of December 2012, Israel held 4,517 Palestinians in its jails.

Of these 1,031 are being held until the conclusion of legal proceedings, 178 are in administrative detention and 170 are under 18 years of age.

Israeli officials say they use administrative detention when they fear an immediate risk to security or to protect informants.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club said the number of inmates on open-ended hunger strike had climbed to 11 from four.