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Suspected 'mastermind' behind deadly shooting of PA policemen killed in custody

Aug. 23, 2016 9:49 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 23, 2016 5:06 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian suspected of “masterminding” a deadly shooting of Palestinian policemen last week was reportedly beaten to death in custody by Palestinian security officers early Tuesday morning, after he was arrested in the Old City of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank.

Nablus Governor Akram Rujoub was quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa as saying that the suspect, nicknamed Abu al-Izz Halaweh, was arrested in a very “precise” operation, minutes after he entered a house in Nablus.

He was then taken to Nablus' Juneid security compound and as he arrived, according to Palestinian security services spokesperson Adnan Dmeiri, “(Halaweh) started to shout and swear at the security officers, who then started to attack (Halaweh).”

Palestinian news site al-Quds News Network reported that some security commanders fired into the air to try and protect Halaweh when officers started to beat him.

The commanders tried to protect Halaweh from the attacking officers, “but he died,” Dmeiri said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced on Tuesday that a special committee would be formed to look into Halaweh’s death and publicly share the results of the investigation, calling the situation “exceptional,” Wafa reported.

Hamdallah also called on Palestinians wanted by Palestinian police to turn themselves in.

Al-Quds described Halaweh as the most prominent Nablus-area leader of Fatah's military wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and among “the most wanted” fugitives by the PA’s security services.

In a statement obtained by al-Quds, Halaweh's family denounced the murder and demanded that the "killers" be brought to justice.

The family described Halaweh, according to the report, as "a noble national leader who was killed in cold blood without the least observance of human rights."

The family called for mourning all over the "homeland.”

Halaweh was the third suspect to be killed amid a widespread manhunt by Palestinian security forces, during which three others were arrested, and five more remained at large, after several gunmen opened fire on security officers when clashes erupted during a raid in Nablus on Thursday.

Two Palestinian security officers were critically injured and later pronounced dead, and two more were wounded.

Overnight the following day, Palestinian security forces killed two suspects during raids in search for the gunmen. Halaweh's home was among the houses targeted during the raids.

On Sunday, three more suspects were arrested during a raid, when security forces said they also seized automatic weapons, ammunition, and anti-tank missiles that were purchased inside Israel.

Following the arrests, Dmeiri said in a news conference that security forces would continue their crackdown in the Old City of Nablus until “the phenomenon of illegal weapon possession is brought to an end.”

“This gang has never pointed a weapon to the Israeli occupation,” Dmeiri said at the time, and accused Israel of working to destroy civil security and the national fabric in Palestinian society.

“We have the names of the gangsters suspected of shooting at security forces. Two were killed on Friday, three have been arrested, and six are being pursued,” Dmeiri said, adding that “security forces won’t withdraw from the old city of Nablus before the six are arrested and brought to justice.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesperson Yousif al-Mahmoud said in a statement that the arrests came as part of the PA’s “continuous effort to provide safety and security for citizens in all districts.”

According to Dmeiri, five security officers have been killed in the past month.

The arrests come amid a crackdown by PA security forces on criminal activity in the West Bank, with Hamdallah announcing in July plans to amend the penal code and "arrest all fugitives and put them to justice.”

Nablus was also the site of a deadly shooting at the end of June, which resulted in two Palestinian security officers being killed and at least 13 civilians reportedly wounded after a gunman opened fire on a police officer’s home.

Spokesperson for the Hamas movement Sami Abu Zuhri denounced what he called a "field execution" of Ahmad Izz Halaweh by Palestinian security inside Juneid compound.

"This marks a dangerous development of a policy of field executions by PA security services, which escalated especially after the execution of two young men Faris Halaweh and Khalid al-Aghbar in Nablus city last week," he added in a statement published on Hamas' website.

He said that the PA's security coordination with the Israeli occupation has mounted into "a policy of oppression against our own people," adding that the trend "necessitated a serious national effort to bring those involved in murders to justice and to stop such dangerous crimes."

Hamas has repeatedly accused the PA of “escalating security collaboration” with the Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy" that funnels Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
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