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UN, Palestinian factions outraged over ‘extrajudicial execution’ by Palestinian police

Aug. 23, 2016 5:05 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 31, 2016 2:47 P.M.)
Ahmad Izz Halaweh
By: Lily Leach

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The United Nations and Palestinian factions from across the political spectrum reacted with outrage after Palestinian security officers arrested a Palestinian man and beat him to death in prison Tuesday morning, with the UN denouncing the killing as an “apparent extrajudicial execution.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian political parties issued statements condemning the act, with Hamas saying the killing marked a new height in the Palestinian Authority's (PA) security collaboration with Israel, and Fatah -- the PA's dominant party -- accusing Hamas of taking advantage of the incident to “mislead the Palestinian people.”

Ahmad Izz Halaweh, the main suspect in a shooting by several gunmen last week which left two Palestinian policemen dead, was arrested during predawn raids in the Old City of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank on Tuesday and taken to the Juneid security compound, where he was attacked and severely beaten by security officers.

Governor of Nablus Akram Rujoub later pronounced him dead.

A graphic photo shared on social media of Halaweh after the brutal attack showed his face, neck, and shoulders badly bruised and swollen.

Halaweh, reportedly the most prominent Nablus-area leader of Fatah's military wing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, was the third civilian to be killed by Palestinian security officers following Thursday’s shooting.

Two were shot dead on Friday during raids in the Old City, three more suspects were arrested on Sunday, while Palestinian authorities claimed five further suspects remained at large.

Shortly after Halaweh’s killing, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced that a special committee would be formed to look into Halaweh’s death and publicly share the results of the investigation, calling the situation “exceptional.”
Hamdallah also called on Palestinians wanted by Palestinian police to turn themselves in.

UN 'extremely concerned'

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, James Heenan, the head of the UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the UN agency was “extremely concerned about the apparent extrajudicial execution."

"We welcome the prompt announcement of an investigation into the killing by Prime Minister Hamdallah, and urge the Palestinian authorities to hold independent investigations into the string of events since last week that have now seen five people lose their lives."

Heenan insisted that the security officers involved in the “unlawful killings” be "brought to justice and be suspended, pending the completion of the investigation."

“There is no place for such acts in a State of Palestine that seeks to abide by international human rights law," Heenan said, concluding that "Our Office will follow this case closely.”

'A policy of oppression against our own people'

The Hamas movement was quick to condemn the killing, with spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri releasing a statement on Hamas' Arabic website denouncing the "field execution” of Halaweh, calling the act “a dangerous development of a policy of field executions by PA security services.”

"Such crimes reflect the bloody nature of the PA’s security coordination with the Israeli occupation,” Zuhri added, which he said has escalated into "a policy of oppression against our own people."

Munir al-Jaghoub, head of media for the Fatah movement, responded by saying in a statement that Hamas used media to “mislead the Palestinian people and to promote breaking the law.”

Al-Jaghoub argued that Hamas “distorted facts about the application of the law by Palestinian security forces” who are committed to “fighting all corruption that threatens the safety of Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, in a statement in Arabic on their website, the left-wing PFLP also denounced Palestinian security forces’ “extrajudicial execution” of Halaweh at the Juneid compound, calling for a fact-finding commission tasked with the investigation.

The PFLP said that the “crime” must be dealt with “at the source” by security forces in coordination with all civil society organizations and national groups, stressing that the PA avoid “vengeful measures at the expense of innocent civilians.”

Palestinians and social media commentators also reacted with outrage, and residents of Nablus took to the streets to protest the savage beating, though the demonstration was promptly dispersed by Palestinian security forces.

Palestinian institutions in Nablus declared Tuesday a day of mourning for Halaweh, while many Palestinian institutions and official figures held a meeting at the Nablus municipality building to formulate a committee to investigate the circumstances of Halaweh’s death.

Participants at the meeting called the killing an “unjustified and irresponsible crime,” and demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamdallah pressure security forces to “control their behavior and withdraw all officers from the Old City of Nablus.”

Accusations of PA security coordination with Israel take on new significance

On Sunday, Palestinian security services spokesperson Adnan Dmeiri said police would continue their crackdown in the Old City of Nablus until “the phenomenon of illegal weapon possession is brought to an end,” claiming that the wanted Palestinians involved in Thursday's shooting had “never pointed a weapon to the Israeli occupation.”

Hamdallah also announced in July plans to amend the penal code and "arrest all fugitives and put them to justice,” amid the ongoing crackdown of PA security forces on criminal activity in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, a parallel campaign by Israeli forces to detain Palestinians and seize weaponry has been mounting, with the Israeli army saying raids into Palestinian-controlled areas in the southern occupied West Bank overnight Monday constituted the “largest (operation) against weapons smuggling” in the occupied Palestinian territory in the past year.

Last week, Israeli forces also conducted an unprecedented 20-hour raid in al-Fawwar refugee camp in the Hebron area under the pretext of uncovering weaponry, during which an unarmed Palestinian teen was shot dead and dozens others were hospitalized.

Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Fatah-dominated PA of “escalating security collaboration” with the Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy" that funnels Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

The accusations took on a new significance in the wake of the three apparent “extrajudicial executions” by PA security forces this week, as Israel too has been the target of widespread international condemnation for unlawful killings of Palestinians who no longer posed a threat when they were killed, since a wave of unrest swept across the Palestinian territory last October.

Some 218 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis during the unrest, the majority of whom were shot during alleged attacks or attempted attacks on Israeli military targets. Some 32 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same time period.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem has accused Israeli soldiers and police officers of acting as “judge, jury and executioner” for Palestinians during the past few months of unrest, also blaming official encouragement and effective impunity for Israeli forces.
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