Armed clashes erupt overnight between PA forces and terror group fighters in Jenin

Street fighting, prompted by PA’s arrest of two gunmen, signals escalating conflict between Ramallah and local Islamists in northern West Bank city

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority security forces confront local armed groups in the Jenin refugee camp on the night of August 1, 2023 (screenshot/ via Shehab News)
Palestinian Authority security forces confront local armed groups in the Jenin refugee camp on the night of August 1, 2023 (screenshot/ via Shehab News)

Armed clashes erupted between the Palestinian Authority’s security forces and members of local armed terror groups on the streets of Jenin Tuesday night.

The fighting broke out in reaction to the PA’s arrest of two gunmen in the West Bank town of Jaba’, some 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Jenin, according to the Hamas-affiliated news website Shehab.

Following the arrests, armed assailants reportedly attacked the headquarters of the Jenin governorate, the local seat of the PA administration, prompting clashes with the PA security forces. The confrontation then moved to the Jenin refugee camp, where the PA forces opened fire and threw tear gas at the gunmen, storming into the local hospital, according to videos circulating on social media.

The clashes signal an escalating conflict between President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and local Islamist factions in the Jenin area, most prominently the Jenin Battalion, the local branch of the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

A month ago, the Israeli military carried out a large-scale two-day operation in the Jenin refugee camp to dismantle the terrorist networks operating there and to seize weapons.

As the street fighting broke out Tuesday night, mosques in the refugee camp called on the PA via loudspeakers to release a number of Palestinian Islamic Jihad members it detained following the IDF operation in the refugee camp in early July, in what local factions claim were “political arrests” and the PA sees as a crackdown on rival Islamist factions that have undermined its control over the northern West Bank for years.

In particular, local factions ask for the release of Khaled al-Ararawi, a prominent PIJ member arrested on July 15, who is also the uncle of 17-year-old Majdi al-Ararawi, one of the 13 gunmen killed by the IDF in the Jenin operation in early July.

Another video circulating on social media shows a group of armed men marching through the Jenin refugee camp, chanting “Abu Mazen get out, no to the Palestinian Authority, no to the army!” Abu Mazen is Mahmoud Abbas’s nom de guerre.

The PA is increasingly seen by some Palestinians as collaborating with Israel at the expense of fighting for their rights. At a mass funeral held for some of the gunmen killed in the IDF operation in early July, senior leaders of the PA’s Fatah party were met with heckling and shouting from the angry crowd.

Abbas’s deputy Mahmoud al-Aloul, the head of Fatah’s Central Committee Azzam al-Ahmad, and other senior Fatah leaders were driven out of that event, with participants shouting “Get out!” as they raged against Fatah’s alleged neglect of the “resistance” against Israel.

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