Fatah militia leader killed by PA forces

Ahmad Izzat Halawa

The fatal beating of a detainee at the hands of Palestinian Authority security forces in Nablus on Tuesday was met with street protests and condemnations from Palestinian factions and human rights groups.

Ahmad Izzat Halawa, 50, was arrested during the pre-dawn hours at a home in the northern occupied West Bank city, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

He was taken to a Palestinian Authority compound where he reportedly “argued with security officers, who then severely beat him to death despite attempts by other security officers to rescue him,” PCHR stated.

The rights group described the incident as an “unlawful” act of “revenge” for the killing of two Palestinian security officers in Nablus last Thursday.

Security forces spokesperson Adnan Damiri told Al-Haq, another Palestinian human rights group, that Halawa was the most wanted suspect in connection to the fatal shootings.

Halawa has been described by Palestinian media as a well-known leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah party, in the Nablus area. He is the third wanted person to be killed by Palestinian security forces in the city since Thursday.

“Torture and ill-treatment”

The Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer described the slayings as “acts of torture and ill-treatment, which exemplify modern lynching techniques by government personnel.”

James Heenan, head of the United Nations Human Rights Office in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, said his agency was “extremely concerned about the apparent extrajudicial execution” of Halawa, the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Halawa’s killing prompted a slew of resignations by members of the Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority.

Halawa’s family condemned the slaying, stating that he was killed “in cold blood without the slightest regard for the sanctity of human life.”

Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesperson for the Islamist party Hamas, accused the Palestinian Authority security forces of “a policy of field executions.”

Abu Zuhri added that “these crimes reflect the bloody nature of the [Palestinian Authority’s] security apparatus that exceeds security coordination with the occupation” – referring to the security forces’ cooperation with the Israeli military – holding the leaders of the Fatah party responsible.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for an investigation to hold those responsible to account.

Hundreds protested in Nablus following the killing on Tuesday.

Demonstrators marched on the streets calling for the departure of Palestinian Authority prime minister Rami Hamdallah, Nablus governor Akram Rajoub and security forces commander Nidal Abu Dukhan before being dispersed by Palestinian officers, who reportedly used tear gas on the crowd:

Shops in Nablus’ Old City were shuttered after a general strike was declared:

Hamdallah announced that a committee had been formed to investigate the “exceptional” incident.

The deadly events of the past week come one month after two other Palestinian security forces personnel were shot dead in Nablus.

Adnan Damiri said on Sunday that Palestinian security forces would continue their arrest campaigns in Nablus until “the phenomenon of illegal weapon possession is brought to an end,” the Ma’an News Agency reported.

Damiri said that security forces found weapons in Nablus’ Old City, suggesting that they were supplied by Israel to foment intra-Palestinian tensions.

Man in uniform gestures towards display of rifles and other weapons

A Palestinian Authority officer observes weapons confiscated in the Old City of Nablus on 21 August.

Nedal Eshtayah APA images

“This gang has never pointed a weapon to the Israeli occupation,” Damiri said.

At the same time that the Palestinian security forces were arresting Halawa, Israeli soldiers conducted a massive operation in the southern West Bank to search for weapons, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Israeli occupation forces claimed they found “seven workshops, 54 guns and 22 lathes for the manufacture of weapons, as well as other firearms, ammunition clips and weapon parts.”

The army produced videos claiming to show the weapons confiscated during the raid:

The Post added that “Since the start of 2016, [Israeli] forces have raided 29 weapons factories and confiscated 49 lathes and over 300 firearms in the West Bank.”

Improvised firearms have been used by Palestinians in several attacks during the sharp uptick in deadly violence that began in late 2015.

In some cases, Palestinian security officers, acting as individuals, have turned their weapons on Israeli forces.

Amjad Sukkari, a security forces officer from the Nablus-area of the West Bank, was killed in February after he fired his legally issued handgun towards Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the central West Bank reserved for the movement of VIPs.

Israel’s leading newspaper, Haaretz, described the incident as “the nightmare scenario that has worried Israel for months.”

Security coordination

Israel depends on the Palestinian Authority, backed by the United States and European Union, to neutralize resistance against its military occupation.

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

As a result, occupation forces decreased the number of operations in areas of the West Bank under nominal control of the Palestinian Authority, the paper added, “because the PA security services are doing more of the work.”

In April, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s defense minister at the time, said of the Palestinian security forces: “If they’ll do the work, why not? … If they do less, we’ll do more; if they do more, we’ll do less.”

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.