Palestinian prisoner dies after Israeli jail riot

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JERUSALEM, Oct 23 (Reuters) A Palestinian prisoner has died of injuries suffered during a riot at an Israeli prison, a prisons spokeswoman said today.

At least 30 people were wounded in violent clashes between Palestinian prisoners and prison guards yesterday.

The violence erupted when guards conducted a routine search for weapons in a tented complex housing 1,000 prisoners in Israel's Negev desert, the spokeswoman said.

At least 15 guards and 15 prisoners were hurt in the riot, during which prisoners hurled rocks and torched tents. The spokeswoman said the guards used only ''non-lethal'' means to quell the violence, which lasted about an hour.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the prisoners involved were members of the Islamist group Hamas.

''I think the unrest amongst the Hamas prisoners is (caused by the fact) that we don't release Hamas prisoners. We release Fatah prisoners,'' Olmert told reporters during a trip London.

Israel has released prisoners from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's secular Fatah faction in an attempt to bolster him against Hamas. The Islamist group seized control of the Gaza Strip after a brief civil war in June.

''We have released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and we will consider a release of more, but none of them will be Hamas, because Hamas continues to be engaged in terrorist actions against Israel,'' Olmert said.

More than 100 Palestinians gathered near a Jewish holy site in the occupied West Bank to protest over the death of the prisoner. An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters after one threw a fire bomb at troops.

Hamas vowed revenge for the prisoner's death and said in a statement that attacks on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails may bring ''painful choices'' regarding the fate of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalit was abducted last year by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid.

REUTERS GL PM2150

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