NABLUS, West Bank (TSWT) – Palestinian security forces exchanged fire with militants in the center of the West Bank’s second-largest city on Tuesday when angry residents pelted an armored jeep with items and chased it away. One man was reported dead.
The incident, sparked by an arrest raid against local militants, marked a rare instance 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 cooperating with an entrenched and intolerable system of Israeli military domination.
Amateur videos on social media showed local youth pelting a Palestinian military-style jeep with bricks, stones and metal bars before chasing the vehicle from central Martyrs’ Square. The sound of gunfire reverberated for hours through the city, known as the business capital of the West Bank. The violence was reminiscent of how Palestinians typically protest against Israeli forces.
The northern West Bank is known as a stronghold of Palestinian militants, and the Palestinian Authority has had frequent difficulties over the years in maintaining control of the area.
The authority maintains close security ties with Israel in a shared fight against Islamist militants. This has contributed to the perception that the PA is merely a subcontractor to Israel — more interested in its own survival than in improving the lives of its people.
Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank is now in its 55th year, and there are no signs of it coming to an end anytime soon. The last substantial round of peace talks ended in 2009. The Palestinians are seeking the entire West Bank, home to some 500,000 Israeli settlers, as the heart of a future independent state.
In recent months, the PA’s reputation has been further weakened as Israel conducts nighttime arrest raids. Israel launched the crackdown last spring after a series of deadly attacks in Israel, some of which were launched by militants from the area. About 90 Palestinians have died in the arrest raids, many said by Israel that they were militants, or local youths who came out to protest the raids.
Israel says it has been forced to intervene because Palestinian security forces have failed to do so. The Palestinians say it is difficult and humiliating to work with the Israelis at a time when there is no political horizon.
The United States has urged both sides to restore calm. But the Biden administration has failed to present a diplomatic plan, focusing instead on small measures to improve the Palestinian economy.
Palestinian officials declined to comment on Tuesday’s operation. But according to the men’s families, two Hamas militants were arrested in the raid. One was close to another militant who was recently killed in an Israeli raid.
Residents accused the Palestinian security forces of the arrests on behalf of Israel and began firing into the air and burning tires. Palestinian security responded with tear gas and gunfights ensued.
Hisham Yaish, a local resident, wrote on Facebook that his 53-year-old brother Firas was killed in a gun battle. He accused neither side of firing the deadly bullet, saying only his brother “was killed in the tragic incidents”.
But Hamas, embroiled in a bitter rivalry with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, said Palestinian security forces had killed him.
Hamas condemned the raid and accused the Palestinian Authority of collaborating with Israel.
“As the enemy continues to carry out killings, arrests, judaization and settlements, the authority identifies with them by continuing to coordinate security, oppress our people and pursue and arrest resistance fighters who behave outside of all our national standards.” Hamas said in a statement. .
In a statement to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Palestinian security spokesman Major General Talal Dwaikat confirmed Yaish’s death.
He said the cause of death was unknown, but claimed an initial report showed there were no security forces in the area where he was killed.
“Testimonials from eyewitnesses who were present in the vicinity of the unfortunate accident confirm the authenticity of this report,” he said.