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Nablus mayor: autopsy confirms woman killed in clashes was not shot by police

Nov. 16, 2016 10:01 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 17, 2016 2:25 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Nablus district governor Akram al-Rujoub said in a statement on Wednesday that an autopsy revealed that the bullet that killed a woman in a shootout between Palestinian police and armed locals was not fired by Palestinian police.

Early Wednesday morning, clashes broke out after Palestinian gunmen allegedly attacked members of Palestinian security forces in Nablus’ Old City during an Israeli army raid into the area.

Three Palestinian officers were left injured in the shootout, while 39-year-old Hilda Bassam al-Asta was fatally shot in the chest.

Al-Rujoub said Wednesday evening that an autopsy revealed al-Asta was shot by an M16 rifle bullet. He claimed that because Palestinian security forces do not possess M16s, the armed men, who do carry those weapons, were responsible for her death.

He added that the gunmen had also attacked the headquarters of the Palestinian security forces amid the clashes, which he confirmed took place in the presence of Israeli army forces who had raided the Old City.

According to the mayor, three of the shooters were able to escape to Balata refugee camp after they forced a taxi driver to take them there at gunpoint, the taxi driver told police.

Al-Rujoub said that the gunmen very heavily armed and fired more than 1,400 shots from M16 rifles at the scene of the shooting, which he claimed indicated that they planned and prepared for the attack in advance.

He also said that Palestinians security forces identified the three armed men, but were withholding publishing their identities.

The Nablus district has been the site of violent clashes involving Palestinian security forces since a massive security crackdown was launched across the West Bank, which turned deadly in August when two policemen were killed during a raid in the Old City of Nablus 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 Ahmad Izz Halaweh, the alleged mastermind behind the police shooting, who was beaten to death in custody.

In September, Palestinian forces also shot dead an alleged Palestinian gunman in Nablus. While Palestinian forces had claimed the men opened fire on them, forcing them to respond, others have claimed the four were unarmed at the time of the incident and were surveilling the Palestinian police while they carried out a detention raid.

Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has faced widespread criticism over the unclear 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 crackdown also comes as Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated PA of “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
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