Palestinian Authority police officers stand guard in the West Bank [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority security forces early Tuesday arrested the suspected mastermind behind the shooting and killing last week of two PA security officers in Nablus’s Casbah.
“The security services arrested the ringleader behind last Thursday’s events,” PA Nablus Governor Akram Rjoub told Palestinian radio, identifying the detained suspect as Ahmad Halawa, a former PA police captain and leader of al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade. Halawa, he said, “provided the killers...with weapons and ordered them to carry out killings.”
On Thursday, gunmen open fired and killed Ibrahim Bani Shamsa and Mahmoud Taraira, two members of the PA security forces, in the Casbah.
The PA security forces have since launched an operation in Casbah, encircling specific neighborhoods to arrest a criminal network of 11 suspected gunmen. Nablus has witnessed a substantial uptick in armed violence in recent months.
Dozens of security forces surrounded and beat Halawa upon his arrival at Junaid prison in Nablus on Tuesday, Rjoub said, after which other security forces intervened, firing shots into the air and eventually extricating Halawa and bringing him into the main building of the prison.
By then, however, Halawa had already suffered serious injuries and doctors at Rafidiya Hospital in downtown Nablus declared him dead on arrival.
The PA has said wanted suspects remain at large. “We will not leave the area [the Casbah] until they are brought to justice,” PA security forces spokesman Adnan al-Damiri told a press conference on Sunday, At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called Tuesday’s killing of Halawa “exceptional” and appointed Justice Minister Ali Abu Diak, the prosecutor general, and the military prosecutor to form an investigative committee. Hamdallah vowed to publish the committee’s findings immediately after the conclusion of its work.
Fatah, meanwhile, published a statement referring to the incident as “unlawful and a violation of the Palestinian citizen’s dignity,” and Hamas condemned the incident.
“Hamas denounces the execution of Ahmad Halawa by the Palestinian security forces in the Junaid prison,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, adding: “These crimes reflect the bloody nature of the PA security forces.”
A couple hundred protesters clashed with PA security forces as they marched from al-Najah University to a central square in downtown Nablus on Tuesday, chanting “Get out Hamdallah, get out Hamdallah.”
The security forces, fired tear gas at the protesters, some of whom were throwing stones.
The acting mayor of Nablus, Samih Tabilah, declared Tuesday a day of mourning.