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Conflicting reports over deadly shooting by Palestinian police in Nablus

Sept. 28, 2016 2:28 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 29, 2016 2:11 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Conflicting reports have emerged over clashes that broke out early Wednesday morning in Nablus City that left one alleged Palestinian gunman shot dead and three others injured by Palestinian security forces.

Spokesperson for the Palestinian security services Adnan Dmeiri told Ma’an that video footage would soon be made public showing four gunmen opening fire on Palestinian police before the officers returned fire, while local Palestinian lawmaker Jamal Tirawi says he had footage proving the four were unarmed when they were shot.

A source from the Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed Wednesday afternoon that 24-year-old Diyaa Araysha succumbed to gunshot wounds in his abdomen a few hours after he arrived at Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

According to Dmeiri, Palestinian security forces had wiretapped a conversation made on the Zello walkie-talkie app between four men in Nablus City and another man who was located in the Balata refugee camp east of the city.

The four men were surveilling Palestinian police from a vehicle while officers were carrying out an operation in which two “fugitives” were detained, when the four allegedly opened fire at the police officers, according to Dmeiri.

The officers then responded to the gunfire, Dmeiri said, adding that Palestinian security forces "would always respond without hesitation."

The vehicle, he said, sped away and was later found about 400 meters away with three people injured inside. "Security officers gave first aid to the injured before they were evacuated to a hospital.”

Shortly after that, Dmeiri added, locals “brought another injured man to the hospital, identified later as the fourth man in the vehicle, who had fled to hide guns" used in the shooting.

Dmeiri claimed that three injured were known fugitives wanted by Palestinian security forces, while the fifth man they were communicating with in Balata refugee camp was a “high-profile fugitive.”

Dmeiri identified the three injured as Fahd Jamal Ishtayya from the village of Tell southwest of Nablus, Muhammad Hasan Marshoud, and Ayham Hussein Srouji.

Meanwhile, Palestinian lawmaker in Nablus of the Fatah party Jamal Tirawi denied Dmeiri’s claims, arguing that slain Diyaa Araysha and the three had not been armed in the incident, nor were they fugitives wanted by police.

"There is video footage that shows that Palestinian security forces fired at a vehicle which was parked after it ran out of fuel."

"If they were armed, then where are their arms? If they were fugitives, why haven't they been summoned?" Tirawi asked.

Following the incident, several youths in the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus City closed several roads and rolled burning tires to protest against the shooting by police.

The incident came as the latest bout of clashes to erupt since the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) launched a massive security crackdown across the West Bank, which turned deadly last month in 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 deemed “extrajudicial executions” -- particularly that of Ahmed Izz Halaweh, the alleged “mastermind” behind the police shooting, who was beaten to death in custody.

Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the PA has faced widespread criticism over the vague 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 Hamas movement 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 occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank to detain Palestinian gunmen and weapons manufacturers.

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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