US urges restraint after Palestinian prisoner's death

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Monday called for calm in Israel and the Palestinian territories as militants vowed revenge for a prisoner who died allegedly under torture in an Israeli jail.

"We're sending a clear message to both sides here in terms of restraint," State Department deputy acting spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

Thousands on Monday thronged the West Bank village of Sair for the funeral of Arafat Jaradat, a 30-year-old father of two and member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades group which has vowed to avenge his death. Jaradat was detained by Israeli authorities on February 18 and died five days later. 

"We understand that the Israeli government is looking carefully into the circumstances of Mr. Jaradat's death," Mr Ventrell added. "We expect all parties to consider the results of the autopsy calmly and without inflammatory rhetoric."

Israeli prison authorities have said Jaradat appeared to have died of a heart attack.

But on Sunday, the Palestinian minister of prisoner affairs, Issa Qaraqaa, citing the preliminary findings of an Israeli-Palestinian autopsy, reported bruises on Jaradat's body, muscle damage and broken ribs.

Israel said the fractured ribs could have been caused by efforts to resuscitate him.

Mr Ventrell said US embassy officials in Israel had been in direct contact with the Israeli government over the case.

"We urge both Palestinians and Israelis not only to refrain from provocative actions that could destabilise conditions on the ground but to consider positive steps, just re-establish trust and de-escalate the current tensions," he added.