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Palestinian gunmen block main road near Balata camp

March 11, 2015 12:27 P.M. (Updated: March 12, 2015 11:00 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) – A group of Palestinian gunmen and youths shut down the main road near Balata refugee camp east of Nablus on Wednesday morning, protesting the detention of fugitives taken into custody during a recent crackdown by Palestinian security services in the Nablus district.

Local sources say the gunmen demanded that the PA free those arrested, claiming that they willingly turned themselves in upon an agreement sponsored by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the governor of Nablus Akram Rajoub.

According to the agreement, those arrested but not proven guilty of any breaches of the law should have been released, protestors said.

The protestors, including a number of gunmen, set fire to used tires in the middle of al-Quds Street preventing vehicles from using the road for more than an hour, after which Palestinian security forces intervened and opened the road.

Wednesday's incident marks ongoing tensions that have resulted from an ongoing security campaign in Balata refugee camp by Palestinian security forces.

The clampdown began at the start of February, which Rajoub said would continue until 18 wanted criminals were detained.

Seven wanted criminals turned themselves in to Palestinian security forces in mid-February following a meeting between Hamdallah, al-Rajoub, and representatives of political parties in Balata refugee camp. Several others have been detained.

The most populated refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, Balata houses an estimated 23,000 on less than a kilometer of land. The densely populated camp has historically shown high levels of unemployment, overcrowded classrooms, and lack of basic services such as access to clean water and effective sewage systems, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East.

The cramped environment of the camp makes it difficult for security forces to enter covertly, and entrance of Palestinian security or Israeli forces into the camp often results in violent clashes.

Balata refugee camp was established by the United Nations in 1950 to provide housing and services to refugees resulting from the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, causing more than 700,000 Palestinians to flee their homes.
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