PA expels 20 families from clan in Yatta after deadly gun battle

Traditional law and forms of justice still hold sway in many Palestinian communities.

Yatta, Hebron (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Yatta, Hebron
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Twenty families from a large Palestinian clan in the southern West Bank city of Yatta were expelled after the Palestinian Authority and local mediators approved a form of traditional justice. The mediation resulted in the families being exiled to a community near Jenin, with many on social media condemning the result as an injustice.
On September 8, a Palestinian man was killed and three were injured, including a young woman, during a gun battle in Yatta. Twenty five year old Taher Ahmed Khalil Shannaran was slain, according to police spokesman Louay Arzikat.
Palestinian media reports said Palestinian police investigated the incident and Palestinian Security Forces were deployed in the city to prevent further violence between the two feuding families. “They called on citizens to exercise restraint and to encourage dialogue rather than violence,” according to a report from Ma’an News Agency.
Local leaders also sought to stop the spread of rumors on social media sites. Rateb al-Jabour, Coordinator of the Popular and National Committees in southern Hebron told local media that houses were burned and gun battles between the families were reported.
The city remained “tense” and security forces patrolled areas to “maintain order,” according to reports. Video posted online on September 8 included more than a minute with the sound of constant gun fire. A large funeral took place the following day for the victim and hundreds from Yatta turned out. Facebook groups and other media widely reported the incident last week. The focus soon turned to the Abu Malash clan and a form of traditional jurisprudence argued they should leave Yatta to prevent further violence between them and the victim’s family. Photos posted online showed members of the family packing up their things in preparation to leave.
Othman Shannaran, a local resident, posted details from the agreement on Facebook. In it he notes that “the other party refused to identify a particular person as a perpetrator of the heinous murder. Therefore, the conferees decided that for the safety and integrity of the Abu Malash clan,” they should be expelled together. He writes that the agreement was made within the “ethics of Islam, the nobility of Arab tradition and of the horse-riding people of Yatta and Hebron.”
The exiled family members have now moved to a town near Jenin. Photos from September 15 showed the families unloading their vehicles near Jenin. A Facebook page from Yatta also posted images of the families leaving. Comments generally expressed sympathy for the exiled families. One woman wrote “we are stuck in our clan system and its trashy laws” and he compared the images of those loading their trucks to Palestinians who fled in 1948.
Inter-family violence in the Palestinian Authority is sometimes solved through local agreements based on customary and traditional law. Fights between families in Yatta have occurred in the past. In 2014, a man named Ali Ismail Ibrahim al-Adrah was reportedly beaten to death and the PA had to deploy security forces to the city to prevent further violence and “revenge attacks between the families.”
The decision to relocate a large family due to a killing illustrates how the Palestinian Authority security forces and police, despite decades of training and work with Western governments, is still beholden to local traditional law. Yet the responses on social media show that some younger Palestinian activists object to the handling of the situation, comparing it to “collective punishment.” With the PA facing a budgetary crisis and pressure from the US, Ramallah seeks calm in places like Yatta that are under full Palestinian control.
The EU and UN did not condemn the decision to exile members of the family from Yatta. In addition, Israeli security forces did not intervene in the gun battle, even though the IDF often carries out raids in the West Bank to detain people for weapons possessions.