The brother of a senior Palestinian official was killed during a quarrel with PA security forces in the West Bank Wednesday night, sparking an outpouring of anger and gunfire.
Khalil Al-Sheikh, 47, was the brother of senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, a close confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and leader of a commission responsible for coordination with Israel.
Hospital officials confirmed the death of Khalil al-Sheikh in a gun battle that erupted after his nephew quarreled with the security officer in el-Bireh, a suburb of Ramallah. Al-Sheikh had arrived at the scene with a group of gunmen to help defend his nephew.
After Khalil al-Sheikh’s death, family members marched through Ramallah, shooting at government buildings and at the headquarters of the Preventive Security, the security force that employed the suspected killer, security officials said. The sound of automatic gunfire could be heard throughout the city.
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the media, said the alleged killer remained at large.
Palestinian police spokesperson Louay Erzeiqat said in a statement that police were investigating the incident.
During al-Sheikh’s funeral on Thursday, gunfire again resounded throughout Ramallah. Parts of the city effectively shut down as automatic weapons fire echoed in the streets.
It was unclear whether the fire was part of the funeral or due to clashes, although videos on social media appeared to support the former, showing armed men in civilian clothes walking through Ramallah streets.
— مش هيك (@meshhek) August 6, 2020
In remarks at his home after the funeral, Hussein al-Sheikh lamented the lack of unity in the “national fabric” which he said led to his brother’s death.
“I almost wish that the bullets that killed Khalil were Israeli bullets. But we’re responsible in this place, we’re responsible for the people…I’ll be straight with you: my heart aches,” Hussein al-Sheikh said.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced the formation of a committee to investigate Khalil al-Sheikh’s killing.
Some Palestinians criticized the announcement as clear evidence of favoritism for the relatives of officials.
“There have been dozens of deaths recently, without any such ‘investigative committee,” wrote one opposition Twitter account.
— مش هيك (@meshhek) August 6, 2020
The West Bank has seen an increase in violence this year due to the coronavirus crisis and the accompanying economic decline.
Palestinian security forces clashed several times with civilians violating coronavirus restrictions in May, including one incident in Deheisheh Refugee Camp which left two wounded with live bullets.
Last week, a clash between residents of Nablus suburb Balatat al-Balad and Palestinian security forces took the life of a local Fatah secretary, Emad al-Din Dweikat. Palestinian officials asked residents to remain calm while an investigation was underway, but photos of armed, masked men in civilian clothes walking the streets of Balatat al-Balad began appearing online.
Irzeiqat said in a statement to Dunya al-Watan media in the aftermath of the shooting that Palestinian police had been conducting operations for several months to gather illegal weaponry which has been spreading in Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.