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'Wanted men' in Balata refugee camp turn themselves in to PA

July 19, 2017 4:51 P.M. (Updated: July 19, 2017 6:44 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Seven "wanted" Palestinians from the Balata refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus turned themselves in to Palestinian Authority (PA) intelligence on Wednesday afternoon.

Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Jamal al-Tirawi told Ma’an that the seven turned themselves in following an agreement made with a PA committee, which included PA intelligence service members and members of Fatah’s Central Committee.

Al-Tirawi said that PA intelligence services had received the "wanted men" from their homes in Balata upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ instructions.

The seven would be interrogated by PA intelligence before being presented to court, he added. Part of the agreement with the men, al-Tirawi noted, ensures that the PA would “respect the dignity of the wanted men and give them a fair trial.” However, al-Tirawi did not mention what crimes the PA suspect the men of committing.

The PA has been condemned in the past for holding Palestinians without charge or trial and committing acts of torture on imprisoned Palestinians.

Balata refugee camp is often the site of violent clashes between the PA and armed locals, as the PA has launched a massive security crackdown to seize weapons and detain “wanted criminals” across the West Bank, as a part of the PA’s widely criticized security coordination with Israel established under the Oslo Accords.

Under the practice, PA security forces’ regularly arrest Palestinian suspects wanted by Israel, suppress Palestinian protests, and share intelligence with the Israeli army, which has been denounced as a revolving door policy of funneling Palestinians between Israeli and PA jails for the same offenses.

Palestinians have pointed out that the PA has long neglected the camp, and has claimed that the camp's maintenance, including law enforcement, was the responsibility of UNRWA. According to Defense for Children International -- Palestine (DCIP), the PA's neglect of the camp coupled with soaring unemployment rates created the space for some residents to become heavily involved in the illegal weapons trade.

However, the PA's heavy-handed law enforcement tactics since 2016 when it began targeting the camp -- taking the shape of routine raids and gun battles with armed Balata residents -- have only added to Balata residents' fears and uncertainties over the deteriorating security situation in the camp, according to DCIP.

A raid by Palestinian forces in Balata in March left a Palestinian policeman dead, as fighters in the camp aligned with Fatah's armed wing the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades warned that they would continue to resist the ongoing security crackdown.

“Who are you using this policy against? Your own people? When you seek to kill us using Mossad (Israeli intelligence) methods, you are leaving us no other choice,” a masked gunman told Israel’s Channel 2 at the time.

An April study by Palestinian think tank al-Shabaka documented the consequences of the PA’s security campaigns in Balata refugee camp, “whose ostensible purpose were to establish law and order,” but have been perceived by some locals as the criminalization of resistance against Israel.“

Meanwhile, the densely populated Balata refugee camp has historically shown high levels of unemployment, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of basic services such as access to clean water and effective sewage systems, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The 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, which forced some 750,000 Palestinians to flee their homes.
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