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Palestinian security forces raid Balata refugee camp, several injured in armed clashes

Oct. 21, 2016 11:50 A.M. (Updated: Oct. 24, 2016 3:46 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Palestinian security forces early Friday raided the Balata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus for several hours as security forces carried out a security operation, according to the governor, injuring at least seven Palestinians after armed clashes erupted between Palestinian forces and residents of the camp.

Akram al-Rujoub told Ma’an that Palestinian security forces were “taking part in a security activity” in the Balata refugee camp in order to “arrest those wanted by Palestinian security,” adding that security forces would “enter any area to impose security,” despite such measures often leading to deadly clashes with residents in the camp.

Locals said that "hundreds" of Palestinian security forces entered the camp from several areas, erupting into armed clashes.

Jamal al-Tirawi, a local lawmaker, told Ma’an that 2,000 Palestinian security members entered the camp, and shot live fire and tear gas into the community. Residents of Balata said they were not informed by any Palestinian official that a large scale raid would take place.

Seven Palestinians were injured during the clashes, identified by medical and security sources as Khalil Mustafa Riyahi who was injured by shrapnel above the heart and was reported to be in stable condition; Rami Abu Ayyash, 40, who was injured with a live bullet to his left leg; Majd Bilal, who was injured with a live bullet to his thigh; Ali Shadi al-Natur who was injured with a bullet to his right leg; a two-month old girl, Jude Maher Qattawi; Khalil Ashraf, 11, who suffered tear gas inhalation was taken to the Rafidiya Hospital for treatment; and Hatem Abu Rizq, who was injured with shrapnel but was not transferred to the hospital.

Balata refugee camp has remained a site of violent clashes between Palestinian security forces and residents of the camp since a massive security crackdown was launched across the West Bank, which turned deadly in August, after two policemen were killed during a raid into the Old City in Nablus to uncover weapons and make arrests.

The ensuing manhunt for the gunmen responsible left three suspects killed by Palestinian security forces, sparking international outrage over what the UN deemed “extrajudicial executions” -- particularly that of Ahmad Izz Halaweh, the alleged “mastermind” behind the police shooting, who was beaten to death in custody.

Last month Palestinian forces also shot dead an alleged Palestinian gunman in Nablus, while three others were also injured. While Palestinian forces had claimed the men opened fire on them, forcing them to respond, others have claimed the four were unarmed at the time of the incident and were surveilling the Palestinian police while they carried out a detention raid.

Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the PA has faced widespread criticism over the unclear circumstances in which Palestinian fugitives have been arrested and killed, with prisoners’ rights group Addameer saying that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

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

The Israeli army’s central command said that the Palestinian security forces were responsible for approximately 40 percent of all arrests of “suspected terrorists,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in May.

Meanwhile, the densely populated Balata refugee camp has historically shown high levels of unemployment, overcrowded classrooms, and a lack of basic services such as access to clean water and effective sewage systems, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The camp was established by the United Nations in 1950 to provide housing and services to refugees resulting from the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, which forced more than 700,000 Palestinians to flee their homes.
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