At least one man was killed overnight Monday in clashes between Palestinian security forces and gunmen in the West Bank after Palestinian Authority arrested a member of Hamas terror group in Nablus.
Firas Yaish, 53, was shot dead during the riots that closed roads in the West Bank city, with unconfirmed video clips on social media showing guns being fired and crowds marching in the streets.
The unrest was sparked by the Palestinian Authority arresting Musab Shtayyeh, as well as two other wanted men.
Shtayyeh is said to have been closely associated with Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, who was killed during an Israeli anti-terror operation in Nablus last month, sparking uproar due to his popularity among the Palestinians on social media.
Palestinian factions in Nablus announced a general strike, demanding Shtayyeh’s release, and warning the Palestinian Authority not to hand over the militant to Israeli authorities. According to Palestinian reports, Shtayyeh acted alongside al-Nabulsi during his attacks against troops and settlers in the West Bank.
A Hamas spokesperson said Shtayyeh belongs to a Hamas militant branch, and said his arrest was “a service to complete the occupation’s work”.
The Palestinian Authority’s show of force against radical elements of Palestinian society appears to be a response to Israeli criticism of the ruling body’s inability to put a lid on violent attacks perpetrated against Israeli soldiers and civilians.
Israeli security officials and experts have said the operations are necessary because of the Palestinian Authority’s waning public support and its shortcomings in combating terrorist organizations in the West Bank - whose influence has increased in recent months.
A security official told Ynet about the Palestinian Authority’s weakness. “Unlike other places in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is scared to enter Nablus and Jenin,” he said. “The Islamic Jihad offer money and weapons to anyone who is wiling to carry out terror attacks. Anyone can turn into a terrorist instantly.”
The official added: “We can see a rise in attacks, with perpetrators coming from poor neighborhoods. Most youths who don’t work, and live on whatever they can get on a given day, and when there’s a chance to get money, they take it.”
“Some of the rise in terrorism stems from the Palestinian security mechanisms’ helplessness, which leads to a lack of governance in certain areas of the Judea and Samaria,” Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said in August, referring to the Hebrew name for the West Bank.
Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar said Israel has entered a closed cycle of violence in the West Bank. "Our people have to go in there to operate and arrest suspects every night. The price is paid by Palestinians who get hurt, further weakening the Palestinian Authority.”
i24NEWS contributed to this report