Gun-battles ravaged Nablus on Tuesday as Palestinian security forces attempted to prevent members of the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades from seizing property belonging to a local con man who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of Palestinian families.
The man is reportedly being held in a Palestinian Intelligence facility in Jericho where he is being questioned about his involvement in the alleged crimes.
A senior al-Aqsa source told Ynet that the man, who owns several exclusive auto-dealerships among other businesses, offered his victims lucrative investment deals. The man promised the potential investors they would receive over 10 percent in interest every month in return.
Many Palestinians – including families of members of al-Aqsa – bought into the scheme and gave the man large sums of money. The source told Ynet that his family gave the con man $97,000 and indeed, the next month they received a check for over $107,000.
'The investment genius'Word spread quickly throughout Nablus and beyond the city limits, the businessman was heralded as an 'investment genius' and dozens of families rushed to offer him millions upon millions of dollars.
However for over a fortnight no one could locate the man, who had stopped answering phone calls and was nowhere to be found. In response members of Al-Aqsa seized control of homes and businesses owned by the con man, evicted the tenants and assumed ownership of them.
According to the source he himself took control of an auto-dealership, a house and three additional stores. "I don't know if this will compensate us," he said, "my family and the families of three other members gave him almost $500,000, but the dog vanished. We will bring him in and deal with him."
Palestinian security forces tried to prevent the takeover and exchanges of fire broke out between them and the Al-Aqsa gunmen.
When asked how their families were able to recruit such large sums of money at a time when most Palestinians are destitute, the al-Aqsa source said that the families sold their jewelry.
"My brother sold his Mercedes, the women sold their gold and the families spent every last cent they had. Now everything is gone. We are left with real estate we don't know the value of or who it will compensate."