West Bank university to halt classes over infighting

Tensions between the Fatah- and PFLP-supporters have been mounting in the aftermath of the PA's decision to crack down on West Bank armed groups.

fatah hamas clashes 298. (photo credit: AP)
fatah hamas clashes 298.
(photo credit: AP)
The Bir Zeit University administration decided Tuesday to suspend studies until further notice following clashes on campus between supporters of Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Tensions between the two parties have been mounting in the aftermath of the Palestinian Authority's decision to crack down on various armed groups in the West Bank, including the armed wing of the PFLP, the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades. As part of a massive security operation, PA policemen in Nablus have arrested a number of PFLP activists in a refugee camp near Nablus. The arrests have drawn sharp criticism from PFLP Secretary- General Ahmed Sa'adat, who is in prison in Israel for his role in the 2001 assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi. Leaflets distributed by the PFLP in the West Bank accused the PA security commander of Nablus, Diab al-Ali, of "colluding" with Israel to eliminate its activists. The leaflets branded him and the PA governor of Nablus, Jamal Muhaissen, as "tools in the hands of the Israeli occupation." The Marxist PFLP, which is one of the factions of the PLO, is a relatively small group that is strongly opposed to peace talks with Israel. The group has also criticized in recent weeks the upcoming US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis as a "conspiracy" against the Palestinians. "We have decided to suspend studies and evacuate all students from the campus out of concern for their safety," said a spokesman for Bir Zeit University. He said the decision was made following an assault on one of the students late Monday. Students said four men from the PFLP attacked a Fatah student in the dorms, wounding him seriously. The assailants used charcoal to burn the student's face. They also hammered nails into the victim's feet, the students said. According to the students, the decision to suspend studies came after Fatah gunmen appeared on campus and threatened to kill PFLP supporters. Earlier this week, scores of students from both parties clashed on campus, using clubs and stones. At least 10 students were wounded. The tensions have also spread to Al-Quds University in Beit Jala, where supporters of the two parties were involved Tuesday in a brawl that also led to the suspension of studies. Sources in the university said the two sides had used knives and clubs, and some students claimed that shots had been fired during the melee. Later in the day, clashes erupted between Fatah and PFLP supporters in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. The camp has long been a traditional stronghold of the PFLP.