Hilltop view of the Palestinian refugee camp Balata on the edge of the West Bank city of Nablus.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Clashes between the Palestinian Authority security forces and residents of the Balata refugee camp broke out for the third time in 10 days early Saturday morning, highlighting growing tensions between the PA and the Balata refugee camp.
“PA security forces entered Balata at 2:30 a.m. to carry out arrests, but immediately met resistance from armed residents,” a local leader in the camp east of Nablus told The Jerusalem Post. “Both sides exchanged fire until the security forces withdrew four hours later.”
The clashes left two residents and one PA security officer wounded.
After the security forces left Balata, Palestinian social media showed hundreds of residents protesting their entry to the camp, yelling chants against Nidal Abu Dukhan, the head of the Palestinian National Security Forces, a branch of the PA security forces.
“Abu Dukhan, you spy... we want to step all over your head,” they chanted.
Some younger residents then marched to Jerusalem Street, adjacent to Balata, blocking traffic and rolling burning tires into the middle of the street.
The security forces hold that they entered the refugee camp to arrest wanted suspects. However, local leaders say the PA should deal with the situation in Balata without sending hundreds of security officers into the camp.
Speaking to Hayat Radio on Saturday, Jamal Tirawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who lives in Balata, said, “We have begun to live in a war-like situation, where we have lost our moral compass... I call on [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] to look at what is happening in Nablus. This is not how we should deal with these issues. Not in this way, not with this logic, not with bullets.”
Hundreds of security forces and armed residents also clashed on October 21 in a similar situation. In addition, security forces and younger residents fought on October 23 when the latter closed Jerusalem Street to traffic.
Tensions between the PA and Balata residents reached a peak in late September when security forces opened fire on four passengers at a gas station near Balata, killing Diaa Marshoud, a young resident of the camp.
PA security forces spokesman Adnan al-Damiri said the passengers opened fire on the officers first and vowed to release video evidence. He has yet to release such evidence.
At Marshoud’s funeral, camp residents called for ousting Abbas.
“Balata wants the fall of the president,” chanted residents while pointing weapons into the air.
The local leader, who spoke to the Post, said anti-PA sentiment in Balata is largely a result of the PA’s neglect of the difficult conditions in the camp.
“There are 28,000 people who live here. Poverty is rampant, unemployment is high and UNRWA has decreased its aid payments,” he said. “The PA has done little to address these concerns, failing to integrate more residents into the PA’s workforce and other projects.”
The local leader added the Palestinian officers’ conduct inside the camp has also increased tension.
“Sometimes the way the security forces' conduct in Balata using force frustrates residents and leads to instability,” he said.
Balata is not the only refugee camp in the West Bank that has seen an increase in tension with security forces over the past week. Residents of the Amari refugee camp, south of Ramallah, clashed twice with security forces last week after Abbas ousted local Fatah leader Jihad Tammaleh from Fatah.