Palestinian Authority police officers stand guard in the West Bank [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian civilian was killed on Wednesday morning in Nablus’s casbah amidst armed clashes between Palestinian Authority security forces and gunmen.
Wafa, the official PA news site, reported that Hilda Usta, 39, was killed and three PA security security forces were wounded including one in critical condition.
The exact details of the clashes and how Usta was killed remain unclear.
However, the PA Nablus Governor Akram Rjoub said “criminals opened fire on positions of the security forces in the casbah and the governor’s office.”
Rjoub added that “an investigative committee into the incident will be formed.”
PA security forces spokesman Adnan al-Damiri said that the firefight happened at the same time as an IDF raid on Nablus, suggesting that the gunmen and IDF worked together. “The opening of fire on PA security forces happened at the same time that the occupation forces raided Nablus…proving that these criminals are acting under the protection of the occupation forces.”
The IDF did not respond to a request for comment.
Najat Abu Bakr, a Fatah parliamentarian and harsh critic of the PA leadership, told Amad, a Palestinian news site, that Rjoub should be removed from the governorship and investigated.
Abu Bakr also said Damiri’s statements are “nonsense and do not deserve a response,” adding that “those who are causing security chaos and shooting people...are the PA security forces.”
Nablus has witnessed continued violence over the past five months. In late June, clashes between gunmen and PA security forces broke out, resulting in the death of two officers. In August, another round of clashes between the gunmen and PA forces, led to the death of two more officers and two gunmen.
After the clashes in August, the PA launched a campaign to arrest wanted suspects in the casbah.
At the time, Damiri said the PA security forces “will not leave the area [the Casbah] until they [the wanted suspects] are brought to justice.”
In the following weeks, the PA security forces arrested multiple suspects including many members of the Halawa family, a prominent Nablusian family.
Ahmed Halawa, a former leader of Fatah’s al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and a former PA police captain, who the PA of accused of being the “ringleader” and primary suspect behind the death of two officers in August, was arrested and subsequently beaten to death in a PA prison.
The incident led to widespread condemnation of the PA security forces and protests, calling for the ouster of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, PM Rami Hamdallah, and Rjoub.
The last two months have been relatively quiet in the casbah with security forces amassed in its narrow pathways.
Some analysts attribute the violence to internal Fatah conflicts, in which disenfranchised members of the al-Aksa Martyr’s brigade have turned their weapons against the PA, while others hold that it is merely criminally motivated acts.