Palestinian Authority security forces clashed with hundreds of Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday who were protesting the killing of a local man beaten to death while in PA police custody.
According to reports in Palestinian media, the protesters were dispersed by tear gas and chased through alleys by PA forces as they marched from a local university to downtown Nablus.
The demonstrators were calling for the resignation of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdalah, Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub, and Palestinian security head Nidal Abu Dukhan, the Palestinian news site Safa said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Rajoub confirmed that Ahmed Halawa, the alleged ringleader in the killing of two Palestinian policemen in Nablus last week, was severely beaten by PA security personnel, lost consciousness and later died in the city’s Jneid prison.
“We’ll examine the incident and draw lessons from it,” he told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, as Hamdallah announced a special committee would look into Halawa’s death.
Amnesty International has accused Palestinian security forces of routinely mistreating prisoners, with torture common and committed with impunity.
The northern West Bank has seen a number of Palestinian police raids in recent months. The area has witnessed factional infighting within the governing Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas, the Islamist terror group ruling the Gaza Strip and bitter rival of the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority ruling the West Bank, condemned Halawa’s “execution,” saying it showed “the bloody nature of the Palestinian Authority’s security services.”
Hamas and Fatah are due to contest municipal elections across the Palestinian territories in October.
Halawa, a senior member of the Fatah-linked al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, was the fifth Palestinian to die in the PA’s ongoing hunt for members of a criminal gang wanted by Ramallah authorities.
Under the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel, Palestinian police operate in most of the major Palestinian towns, including Nablus.
Overnight Thursday, a firefight erupted between gang members and PA police after officers entered Nablus’s Old City, a densely populated warren of alleyways that was one of the flashpoints of the Second Intifada between 2000 and 2005.
Two police officers and two gunmen — both of whom he said were on a police wanted list — were killed in the operation, Rajoub confirmed at the time.
Gun violence is rampant in the West Bank, PA police spokesman Loaie Izrekat said in June. Recently, the house of Nablus Mayor Ghassan Shakeh came under fire. The late governor of Jenin Qadura Mussa had attempted to crack down on weapons dealing and died of a heart attack after assailants fired at his home in 2012.
On June 30, five Palestinians, including two PA security officers, were killed in separate shootings in the West Bank, while 16 people were injured.