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Nablus festival stage torched as Israeli patrols oust local forces

July 27, 2009 6:12 P.M. (Updated: July 29, 2009 1:46 P.M.)
Nablus – Ma’an – Unidentified armed arsonists set fire to the Shopping Festival main stage under the watch of Israeli troops patrolling Nablus’ city center Monday before dawn.

The Israeli security arrangement in the West Bank sees Palestinian police and security forces evacuate the city center when Israel announces its own security patrols of the area. On Monday morning Israeli troops invaded the city, so local police were unable to prevent the torching of the festival stage, member of the shopping festival committee Taysir Nasrullah reported.

Nasrullah said three masked gunmen came from the within the Old City and spilt fuel on the stage then set it on fire. Though local officers observed the crime, they were unable to stop it or pursue the arsonists because of existing security arrangements with Israel.

Police had earlier applied to Israeli military officials for a special permit that would allow two unarmed Palestinian police stationed near the festival headquarters in the main square. The request was refused.

Ali Barham, the festival coordinator, said a new iron stage would be built replacing the torched one.

International media have hailed the Nablus Shopping Festival as the culmination of economic development initiatives from the international community, as well as the fruition of ongoing efforts under US Major General Keith Dayton who oversees the Palestinian security forces. Security means economic prosperity, the argument goes, and because of an improvement in the ability of the Palestinian Authority to police citizens in Nablus, the Huwwara checkpoint was opened to car traffic and restrictions on travel in and out of the northern region were reduced.

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