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24 hours of clashes after PA arrests Palestinian fighters

Jerusalem24 – A 53-year-old Palestinian man was killed and over 100 injured during violent confrontations that spanned 24 hours between Palestinian youth and Palestinian Authority security forces in the center of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

Firas Yaish, a Nablus resident, was reportedly a bystander who was killed when he was shot in the head during an exchange of fire between Palestinian gunmen and PA security in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Yaish’s brother Amjad Yaish was killed by Israeli forces in 1987.

A student from An-Najah University, Anas Abdel Fattah, was seriously injured by three live bullets in the abdomen and is lying in intensive care. According to Medical Relief sources, over 100 were treated for tear gas inhalation at the scene, and a family was taken to the National Hospital in Nablus for treatment.

Arrests ignite uninterrupted clashes

The confrontations erupted when a Palestinian fighter who reportedly survived an Israeli military operation earlier this year was arrested by Palestinian Preventive Security (PPS).

According to Israeli media, the PPS entered Nablus at Israel’s request to arrest Musab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tabila. Shatyyeh is a Palestinian fighter who, according to the same reports, has been at the top of Israel’s wanted list since the assassination of Ibrahim Nabulsi on 9 August.

Palestinian fighters Ibrahim Nabulsi (left) and Musab Shtayyeh (right) [Source: Social Media]
A photo of Shtayyeh and Nabulsi, whom Palestinian media say were close, has been circulating on social media. 18-year-old Ibrahim Nabulsi was a popular figure in the West Bank, whose known evasions of Israeli assassination attempts before he was killed by Israeli special forces on 9 August earned him the nickname “The Lion of Nablus”.

Shtayyeh’s family told Quds Network in an interview this morning that he was beaten during his arrest. The family were informed that he was being held at the PA security forces’ headquarters in Nablus. However, the family says he was transferred to Jericho hours after his arrest and that he began an open-ended strike, refusing water and food in protest at his arrest.

Eyewitness accounts say the PPS raided several houses in the city, after which they arrested Shtayyeh and Tabila.

Shortly after the arrests at midnight Monday night, armed confrontations broke out between Palestinian gunmen and PA security forces, soon followed by clashes between unarmed Palestinian youth who threw stones at armored security jeeps and set tires and trashcans alight across the city.

Palestinian youth also marched from the refugee camps in and around Nablus (Balata, Al-Ain, and Askar) and blocked the streets, demanding security services release Shtayyeh.

Dozens of Palestinian fighters in Nablus took to the streets and fired shots in the air in protest at Shtayyeh’s arrest. In Jenin, dozens of fighters also took to the streets demanding his immediate release.

Local sources said the fighters fired a barrage of bullets at the PA’s provincial headquarters in Nablus.

The confrontations lasted for an uninterrupted 24 hours, ending shortly after midnight on Tuesday.

“In the interest of the PA”

Hebrew Channel 12, according to a translation by Safa News Agency, reported that Shtayyeh’s arrest came after “serious messages from Israel to the Palestinian security services on the need to increase the effectiveness of anti-terrorist activity.”

According to Channel 12, Shtayyeh was also reportedly the target of a special operation carried out by Israel’s special “Yamam” unit around two months ago in which two others were killed. Jerusalem24 was unable to independently verify this.

According to Safa, the arrest came after pressure by the Israeli security services on the PA to “confront the militants and seize their weapons. The [Israeli] army will be forced to expand its operations and will storm the Palestinian areas, which will affect the Palestinian economy.”

The channel also quoted Israeli officials as saying Shtayyeh’s arrest was “part of what Israel expects to see from the PA, and is in the interest of the PA because Hamas’ activities threaten its governance and stability.”

Agreement reached

The political factions’ Coordination Committee announced in the early hours of this morning they had reached an agreement following the popular uprising triggered by the arrests. The agreement states that the PA will “close Shtayyeh’s file in a satisfactory and appropriate way, including a time limit on his detention.”

The agreement also stipulates that the PA will not hand over Shtayyeh and Tabila to Israeli authorities.

However, the PA has rejected for now the mediation’s requests to release Shtayyeh, and refused to provide the reasons for his arrest, which it had said yesterday would be revealed later in the day. The Palestinian Minister of Interior, Ziad Hab Al-Rih, did not attend the meeting last night despite being in Nablus.

The agreement also stipulates that all persons arrested during the confrontations, “except those who damaged private property and theft”, would not be prosecuted.

Palestinian reaction

The group “Areen Al-Asoud” (Lion’s Den) in the city of Nablus, called for a protest march at 3pm yesterday at the Martyrs’ Roundabout in the center of Nablus.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesman Tariq Salmi said in a statement, “The protection of the people and their resistance in the West Bank is a matter of national responsibility.”

In a letter addressed to the PA, Palestinian fighters in Jenin said, “We do not want you to fight with us, but stop putting your hands on us. Release Musab Shtayyeh. If you resort to kidnapping, we will resort to kidnapping as well.”

Hamas also condemned the arrest by the Palestinian security forces. The movement said in a press statement that what happened is “a new stain on the forehead of the [Palestinian] authority and its record of black security coordination.”

The Palestinian Bar association decided to “suspend work in the Nablus governorate throughout the day across  all courts and official institutions, except for emergencies.”

Al-Najah university announced that classes would take place online, and later said the measure would be extended until Thursday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in New York, ahead of his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh was in London, where he represented Palestine at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Photos and video footage of the confrontations were widely shared on social media throughout the day.

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