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Palestinians take cover during clashes with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron Sunday. / Nasser Shiyoukhi, AP

JERUSALEM ?? Days of Palestinian unrest in the West Bank escalated Monday.

Clashes between dozens of Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli soldiers were sparked by the death of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old Palestinian man who died under unclear circumstances while in Israeli police custody.

Palestinian officials insist Jaradat was tortured to death during an interrogation. An Israeli autopsy conducted in the presence of a Palestinian physician showed bruises and a couple of broken ribs which, Israel says, could have occurred during resuscitation efforts.

Tensions were already high after several Palestinian demonstrations demanding the release of more than 4,000 prisoners held in Israeli jails for everything from stone-throwing to terror attacks.

The violence, which comes a month before President Obama's visit here in late March, threatens to complicate a trip whose primary goal is to get the foes back to the negotiating table. Hillel Frisch, a researcher at the Begin Sadat Center for Stategic Studies, says the flare-up isn't coincidental: "The Palestinian Authority is behind all of this, and, of course, the United States, being a democracy and sensitive to public opinion, is paying attention."

Frisch said the Palestinian Authority is fanning the flames of public anger against Israel "to leverage" concessions from the American president during his visit.

If tensions are high, the president will try to lower them, "perhaps by linking American readiness to contain Iran" ?? a long-standing Israeli demand ?? "with Israeli concessions on Palestinian issues."

Despite the growing unrest, Frisch doubted the protests would turn into the kind of full-fledged uprisings that occurred at the end of 1987 and again in 2000 in which scores of people were killed.

For one thing, a large number of the men who led the uprisings are dead "and no middle command has come to take its place."

Palestinians are also much less likely to resort to violence today, the political analyst said, because the Palestinian public has grown accustomed to a life of relative peace, however imperfect.

"Most Palestinian parents found the tremendous sacrifices that took place a decade ago didn't pay off and they don't want to lose any more children," Frisch said.

Eran Singer, Israel Radio's Arab Affairs reporter, told IBA News that the West Bank government headed by Mahmoud Abbas is trying to show the Palestinian public it can pressure Israel, just as well as its rival, the Hamas government, did last November when it sent rockets into Israel.??

"This is very well-controlled incitement," Singer said, "but a controlled incitement."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Palestinian unrest continues after man's death

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