Exchanges of fire broke out Tuesday in the West Bank city of Nablus between Palestinian security forces and gunmen who escaped from a Palestinian Authority jail 10 days ago.
At least three bystanders were injured in the clashes. The gunmen are members of Fatah's military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
A PA force arrived at the casbah of Nablus in order to arrest one of the wanted men, who escaped with the group from the Palestinian jail, where he had been held as part of an amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA first reported by Ynet.
Fourteen inmates escaped from the prison on April 4, after complaining about their imprisonment conditions. One of the prisoners told Ynet last week that the group decided to flee jail because they were dissatisfied with the PA's handling of their case and felt that Israel's promises to grant them a pardon were not genuine.
Four of the group members turned themselves in to the PA over the weekend. The others continue to hide and clash with Palestinian security forces.
This is not the first time civilians are injured in exchanges of fire between gunmen and Palestinian security forces. Six people, including policemen and a wanted Palestinian, were injured in another clash between group members and PA police last week.
A Palestinian security source told Ynet that the PA was determined to capture the group members and put them back in jail, after all efforts to resolve the issue through dialogue have failed.
'Hamas taking advantage of tensions'The source said the clashes had nothing to do with Sunday's attempt to assassinate Nablus governor Jamal al-Mouhsen, who was shot during a visit to the Balata refugee camp by members of an armed Fatah cell, which refuses to accept the PA's authority and the security plan for Nablus.
The source said, however, that the two incidents show that the PA must continue to enforce the security plan's terms, which are based on three principles: Rule of law, one central governing authority, and one legal armed body – the PA.
The source said that members of Hamas in Gaza were taking advantage of the tensions between the PA and Fatah gunmen in Nablus. Hamas is financing, arming and encouraging the rebellious Fatah group to continue to confront the PA, he said.
At the end of Tuesday's clash, the gunmen held a parade in Nablus in which they carried weapons, promised not to give in to the PA and vowed to continue to fight the Israeli occupation. The armed parade violates the Palestinian security plan, which prohibits people who are not part of the Palestinian security forces to carry weapons.