Dozens of Fatah gunmen held a press conference in Nablus Thursday to demand an
inquiry into the arrest of Fatah activists by Palestinian Authority security
forces in the West Bank.
The masked gunmen held the press conference in
Balata refugee camp near Nablus. This was the first time in several years that
Fatah gunmen appeared in public in the West Bank. Balata has long served as a
stronghold for disgruntled Fatah gunmen and activists who have openly challenged
the PA leadership. The gunmen belong to Fatah's armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades, sources in the camp said.
The Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency
quoted the gunmen as saying that they continued to support PA President Mahmoud
Abbas "as the one and only leader of the Palestinian people." The agency also
quoted the gunmen as saying that their guns would be used only against the
enemies of Abbas and Fatah.
However, the gunmen denounced the arrest of
dozens of Fatah activists at the hands of various PA security services in the
West Bank in the past few months.
"We call upon President Mahmoud Abbas
to form an official and unbiased commission of inquiry to look into the arrest
campaign by the Palestinian security forces," a spokesman for the gunmen told
reporters. He claimed that hundreds of Fatah activists have been arrested by the
PA, something which, he added, constitutes an "insult" to Fatah's
"We are facing only two options," the spokesman said. "We either
live in dignity or die in an honorable way." The gunmen accused the heads of the
PA security forces in the West Bank of seeking to "humiliate" Fatah activists
and supporters by cracking down on them.
They also accused the PA
security forces of torturing some of the Fatah detainees. The masked gunmen also
warned of an Israeli "scheme" to hand over the West Bank to a Palestinian party
other than the PA.
"This scheme will pass only over our bodies and we
won't allow it to happen," the gunmen warned. "We are with President Abbas and
his policies." Following the press conference, the gunmen marched through the
streets of the refugee camp while firing into the air from automatic assault
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