RAMALLAH: A 53-year-old man was killed in the city of Nablus as the Palestinian Security Services exchanged fire with Hamas fighters in the center of the occupied West Bank’s second-largest city.
The man, named as Firas Yaish, died as four others were injured in angry clashes, with residents pelting an armored jeep with objects.
The incident, sparked by a raid to arrest two Hamas militants, marked a rare case of deadly internal Palestinian fighting in the occupied West Bank.
It also reflected the deep unpopularity of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which is widely seen as collaborating with the Israeli-imposed status quo.
The clashes in Nablus took place a few days before the annual speech of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 in New York, during which he will demand an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Taysir Nasrallah, a prominent Fatah leader in Nablus, told Arab News that the timing of the raid was wrong — three days before Abbas’ UN speech and five weeks before An-Najah National University elections in Nablus — as it would affect Fatah’s chances of winning the student council elections.
Palestinian Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Ziad Hab Al-Rih and a delegation of senior security advisers visited Nablus on Tuesday to contain the situation and restore order. Sources told Arab News that the city’s governor, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Ramadan, refused to release the two detainees taken in the raid, including Musab Shtayyieh, who tops Israel’s list of most wanted people.
Nasrallah said the arrests had gone down poorly with the public, and that Shtayyieh had not violated any Palestinian law.
Residents accused the Palestinian security forces of making the arrests on behalf of Israel and began shooting into the air and burning tires. Palestinian security responded with tear gas, and exchanges of fire took place.
Hamas condemned the raid and accused the PA of collaborating with Israel.
“While the enemy continues to carry out killings, arrests, Judaization and settlements, the PA identifies with it by continuing security coordination, suppressing our people, and pursuing and arresting resistance fighters in behavior outside all our national norms,” Hamas said in a statement.
Amer Hamdan, a political activist from Nablus, told Arab News that the timing of Shtayyieh‘ arrest was wrong “because its repercussions will weaken Abbas’ position at the UN.”
Hamdan believes that Israel pressured the PSS to arrest Shtayyieh at this particular time to embarrass the PA at the UN, and to show the world that it cannot control security in cities under its control.
Maj. Gen. Adnan Damiri, a former spokesman for the PSS, told Arab News that it is Hamas and Islamic Jihad that wish to escalate violence in the West Bank to weaken the PA and damage its standing with Israel as a security guarantor.
He added that Israel, too, is interested in creating chaos in Palestinian areas.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, called on all segments of Palestinian society to be calm and to confront the Israeli occupation.
The PA has recently come under immense pressure from Israel to act against growing militancy in Jenin and Nablus, from where the militants allegedly plan attacks against Israeli targets.
The PA requested a four month period from Israel with no Israel Defense Forces incursions into Palestinian areas. However, Israel refused and said the IDF and the security agency Shin Bet would continue their operations.
The PA has a 33,000-strong security force in the West Bank, but it has to withdraw each time the IDF invades the West bank’s cities, embarrassing the PA and PSS in front of their people.
Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank is now in its 55th year, with no signs of ending anytime soon. The last substantial round of peace talks ended in 2009.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, home to some 500,000 Israeli settlers, as the heartland for a future independent state.