Violent, intense clashes broke out between Palestinian Authority security forces and Palestinian gunmen in the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, after the arrest of two men, one of them a Hamas operative wanted by Israel.
The PA security forces’ arrest raid that began late on Monday night was confronted with stiff resistance that turned deadly. The sound of bullets shot by protesters at PA security and the return fire could be heard in several places throughout the city.
Sporadic gunfights continued well into the early hours of Tuesday morning, with angry young Palestinians hurling stones at the PA security’s armored vehicles, a scene usually reserved for clashes with the Israeli army. The city looked like a ghost town with its deserted streets, while the municipality suspended work at its offices due to shots fired at its building, and An-Najah National University told its students that classes would be held remotely on Tuesday.
Shots also were fired at the Radio Hayat studio during its morning show, forcing the anchor to interrupt the regular programming and stop broadcasting for the safety of the workers.
At least 17 people were injured in the clashes, including two in serious condition, Palestinian medical sources reported. Meanwhile, the area of closures and protests widened on Tuesday to include the Old City of Nablus, as well as the Balata, Askar, and Al-Ain refugee camps.
Palestinian factions in the city harshly criticized the PA actions, calling for a general strike and demanding the release of both men, while threatening that they will not let security forces enter the city until the men are freed.
The PA Minister of Interior Ziad Hab al-Reeh arrived in Nablus on Tuesday, in an attempt to contain the situation. A security meeting was held inside the governorate headquarters in Nablus.
Clashes have continued in the vicinity of Nablus’ Old City.
The intense clashes in Nablus may be a prelude to the end of the era of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, with intense internal disputes taking place between those eyeing the PA presidency.
“I think we are living in a preparatory phase for an uprising against the PA. Unfortunately, some ill-considered measures are hastening this,” said a Fatah member.
The raid sparked strong reactions from Palestinian factions. Hamas, in a statement, condemned the arrests by the PA’s security forces, calling for the “immediate release of all the resistance fighters and political detainees.”
Hamas described the actions by PA security forces as “a new stain on the forehead of the PA and the black record of its security coordination.”
Ramallah-based political analyst Faris Sarafandi said that the PA “must read the Nablus message clearly before it is too late.”
Majdoleen Hassona, a Palestinian journalist based in Nablus, tweeted that “what is happening now in Nablus is a new shame in the history of the Palestinian Authority,” adding that “bullying a defenseless people exhausted by the occupation with its crimes, arresting its resistance, killing its sons, destroying their future and carrying out the tasks of the occupation, as the security services do, is something that cannot be tolerated.”
Dr. Nasser Al Qudwa, president of the National Democratic Assembly, in a statement condemned the PA’s actions.
“The arrest of the two young men, Musab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tabila, who are wanted by the occupation, by the Palestinian security services that is affiliated with the influential group in Ramallah, is disgraceful and betrays the sacrifices of the sons of the security services and calls for a decisive national pause to confront this blatant coherence with the occupation,” the statement said.
The Palestinian presidency on Tuesday called for calm from all Palestinians, urging them “to confront the conspiracies of the occupation and some regional countries that want to harm our national project.”
PA presidency spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “We call on our people to unite, and to close ranks in this dangerous stage that our national cause is going through, and not to be drawn behind malicious agendas, and to miss the opportunity on the enemies of our Palestinian people, in order to preserve our national principles, which President Mahmoud Abbas holds, in the face of all the conspiracies surrounding the Palestinian cause and the rights of our people.”
Last week, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi criticized the Palestinian Authority security forces, saying that the increase in the number of attacks in the West Bank is due to its incompetence.
“The lack of governance of the Palestinian security forces in certain areas of the West Bank constitutes fertile ground for the growth of terrorism,” Kochavi said.
Israel’s military and security forces have stepped up their operations in the West Bank, carrying out nightly raids and arresting dozens of Palestinians. Many of these operations are in areas under the Palestinian Authority’s control and have triggered frequent clashes with residents.
Palestinians say more than 2,000 people were arrested in these raids and incursions, while the IDF claims it succeeded in thwarting hundreds of attacks.
Abbas is currently in New York, ahead of his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. Meanwhile, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh was in London on Monday, where he represented the PA at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
The story is written by Mohammad Al-Kassim and reprinted with permission from the Media Line.