Conflicts & War

Palestinian Authority arrest of Hamas members in West Bank sparks protests

Jerusalem, Sep 20 (EFE).- An operation by Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces to arrest Hamas militants in the West Bank city of Nablus coincided with the death of a civilian and spurred protests Tuesday that left 20 people injured.

The cause of death of Nablus resident Firas Yaish remains to determined, PA security forces spokesman Talal Dweikat said, pointing to ostensible witness accounts that no PA police were present at the spot where the man was killed.

Videos circulated on social media showed PA police responding with tear gas to crowds who pelted their vehicles with rocks after the detention of Musab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tbeileh.

Al Jazeera identified Shtayyeh as a commander in the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the Palestinians in Gaza.

The PA administration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is under the control of Fatah, the oldest Palestinian resistance organization.

“The decision to detain Musab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tbeileh came for reasons the security establishment have, which will be disclosed later,” Dweikat said, pledging that representatives of human rights organizations would be allowed immediate access to the prisoners.

Reactions to the police operation in Nablus reflect growing unhappiness with the PA, seen by many on the West Bank as authoritarian and too ready to do the bidding of Israel.

Israeli security forces have been carrying out arrests on an almost daily basis in the northern West Bank, where Nablus is located, in the wake of a spate of attacks inside Israel blamed for 18 deaths.

Roughly 100 Palestinians, including minors and unarmed civilians, have died in clashes with Israeli forces over the last six months.

Israel has accused the PA of not doing enough about armed militants in the West Bank.

Hamas were the surprise winners in the Palestinian legislative elections of January 2006, but Israel and the United States refused to accept those results and sanctions were imposed on the Hamas-led PA.

In February 2007, Saudi Arabia arranged a pact for Fatah and Hamas to form a coalition government.

That alliance lasted only until June 2007, when Hamas seized control in Gaza to pre-empt a Fatah coup attempt. EFE jma/dr

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