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Nablus police pursue man from Balata refugee camp in failed ambush operation

Feb. 21, 2017 3:54 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 21, 2017 6:25 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Palestinian security forces conducted a failed ambush operation to detain a “fugitive” in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Tuesday.

Anonymous security sources said the man they were seeking was from the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus city, saying that police attempted to ambush him but that he managed to escape.

The sources did not specify where the raid itself took place.

Nablus Governor Akram Rujoub told Ma'an that Palestinian security forces had begun implementing a “new method” of detaining wanted fugitives by conducting targeted ambush operations, which he said was a way to “avoid harming innocent citizens,” as former detention raids by police had been carried out in the densely populated Balata refugee camp, sparking violent clashes.

The governor also mentioned that gunmen had recently blocked off a major street in Nablus city for a few minutes and fired gunshots into the air before firing at a private vehicle belonging to a police officer.

He did not specify when the incident took place, and did not say whether it was related to Tuesday’s ambush.

"These outlaws are trying to trick security forces into carrying out a major campaign in Balata to harm citizens,” Rajoub argued. “However, security services and political leadership refuse to do that. We insist that residents of the camp enjoy safety and security.”

Balata refugee camp has been 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 last 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,” particular after one detainee was beaten to death in police custody.

Last September, Palestinian forces also shot dead an alleged Palestinian gunman in Nablus, while three others were 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 unclear 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.”

The crackdown also comes as Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated PA of “escalating security collaboration” with 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 last 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 (UNRWA).
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