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Palestinian PM vows to resign if PA fails to arrest all West Bank fugitives

Aug. 28, 2016 1:53 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 28, 2016 7:54 P.M.)

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah vowed to resign from office if the Palestinian Authority failed to arrest all wanted men responsible for encouraging “security chaos” in the occupied West Bank.

In an interview Saturday evening with Ma’an TV, Hamdallah, who is also the Minister of Interior, said that operations would continue throughout the West Bank to "impose security" and “arrest all fugitives.”

“No one has immunity," the prime minister insisted.

Hamdallah described an armed crime network of around 30 fugitives who were responsible for creating “a state of lawlessness” by carrying out occasional shootings, kidnappings, and “imposing their will on the (Palestinian) people.”

The interview came after the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) massive security crackdown turned deadly in recent weeks in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, after two policemen were killed during a raid into the Old City 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 and Palestinian factions deemed “extrajudicial executions” -- particularly that of Ahmed Izz Halaweh, the alleged “mastermind” behind the police shooting, who was beaten to death in custody on Tuesday.

The prime minister announced later on Tuesday an investigation would be opened into Halaweh’s death.

Hamdallah claimed in Saturday’s interview that police started security operations in Nablus after receiving several complaints and petitions by institutes and notable residents of the city who called for stopping the fugitives.

Hamdallah said around 100 outlaws have already been arrested in the West Bank since the start of security operations three months ago.

Palestinian security services spokesperson Adnan Dmeiri previously stated that the wanted men had “never pointed a weapon to the Israeli occupation.”

Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the PA has faced wide criticism over the vague circumstances in which Palestinian fugitives have been arrested and killed.

In the wake of Halaweh’s killing, Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer released a statement 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.”

“Addameer considers the actions of the Palestinian Security Forces to be in contravention with the Convention Against Torture and other international human rights treaties,” the statement added, demanding that those involved in Halaweh’s killing be held accountable.

The Hamas movement also reacted to Halaweh’s death with outrage, saying the “extrajudicial execution” and security crackdown marked a new height in the PA’s security coordination with Israel, particularly as a parallel operation by the Israeli army has been mounting in the West Bank to detain Palestinian gunmen and weapons manufacturers.

The same night Halaweh was arrested and beaten to death in prison, Israel said they had conducted the “largest (operation) against weapons smuggling” in the occupied Palestinian territory in the past year. Six Palestinians were shot and injured during the operation.

Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated PA of “escalating security collaboration” with the 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 in May.

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