Clashes in Balata refugee camp following raid by Palestinian security forces

Published October 21st, 2016 - 11:00 GMT
Palestinian security forces are seen on patrol in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AFP/File)
Palestinian security forces are seen on patrol in the West Bank city of Nablus. (AFP/File)

Palestinian security forces early Friday entered the Balata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus from four different areas to carry out a security operation, according to the governor, erupting into armed clashes with residents of the camp.

Akram al-Rujoub told Ma’an that Palestinian security forces were “taking part in a security activity” in the Balata refugee camp in order to “arrest those wanted by Palestinian security,” adding that security forces would “enter any area to impose security,” despite such measures often leading to deadly clashes with residents in the camp.

Locals said that "hundreds" of Palestinian security forces entered the camp from several areas, erupting into armed clashes. However, no injuries were reported.

Jamal al-Tirawi, a local lawmaker, told Ma’an that 2,000 Palestinian security members entered the camp, and shot live fire and tear gas into the community. Residents of Balata said they were not informed by any Palestinian official that a large scale raid would take place.

Balata refugee camp has remained a site of violent clashes between Palestinian security forces and residents of the camp since a massive security crackdown was launched across the West Bank, which turned deadly in August, after two policemen were killed during a raid into the Old City in Nablus to uncover weapons and make arrests.

The ensuing manhunt for the gunmen responsible left three suspects killed by Palestinian security forces, sparking international outrage over what the UN deemed “extrajudicial executions” -- particularly that of Ahmed Izz Halaweh, the alleged “mastermind” behind the police shooting, who was beaten to death in custody.

Last month Palestinian forces also shot dead an alleged Palestinian gunman in Nablus, while three others were also injured. While Palestinian forces had claimed the men opened fire on them, forcing them to respond, others have claimed the four were unarmed at the time of the incident and were surveilling the Palestinian police while they carried out a detention raid.

Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the PA has faced widespread criticism over the vague circumstances in which Palestinian fugitives have been arrested and killed, with prisoners’ rights group Addameer saying that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated PA of “escalating security collaboration” with the Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

The Israeli army’s central command said that the Palestinian security forces were responsible for approximately 40 percent of all arrests of “suspected terrorists,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in May.

Meanwhile, the densely populated Balata refugee camp has historically shown high levels of unemployment, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of basic services such as access to clean water and effective sewage systems, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The camp was established by the United Nations in 1950 to provide housing and services to refugees resulting from the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, which forced more than 700,000 Palestinians to flee their homes.

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