A Palestinian bystander was killed early Tuesday when protestors clashed with Palestinian security services over the arrest of two members of the Hamas terror group, allegedly at Israel’s request, in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The man was named as 53-year-old Firas Yaish. According to Palestinian reports he was a bystander and was shot in the head.
A statement from the PA security forces confirmed the death of Yaish and said they were “waiting for a medical report,” on the circumstances of his killing.
He was killed “in a place where no security personnel were present,” forces spokesman Talal Dweikat claimed in a statement.
Palestinian reports said PA security forces opened fire toward protesters demonstrating against the arrest operation.
Some of the protesters had reportedly set fire to tires and fired into the air.
Unrest persisted through the morning, with hundreds of youths hurling rocks at PA armored vehicles and the sound of gunfire ringing out across the Nablus city center.
The two men detained by Palestinian security services were named as Musab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tbaileh — members of Hamas wanted by Israel.
The two were said to have been top targets in the wake of the killing of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander Ibrahim Nabulsi by Israeli troops during an operation last month.
A photo circulating on social media showed Shtayyeh and Nabulsi smiling together.
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Shtayyeh was part of an armed squad called the Nablus Battalion or Nablus Lions, the Haaretz daily reported.
The report said he was suspected of involvement in recent shooting attacks against Israeli forces and Jewish worshipers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus.
In the wake of the arrests, terror groups warned the Palestinian Authority of the consequences of the operation, and demanded the immediate release of the men.
Hamas issued a statement warning the PA security services against carrying out actions on behalf of Israel.
“This is a new stain on the [Palestinian] Authority and the black record of its security coordination,” the terror group said in a statement.
“The authority has positioned itself as an exclusive agent of the occupation (Israel) in the face of our Palestinian people,” the statement said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity given the unpopularity of such operations among Palestinians, a PA official told The Times of Israel that the chances Ramallah’s security forces will be able to continue carrying them out without the advancement of a diplomatic initiative to end the conflict with Israel “get smaller by the day.”
The operation was carried out as PA President Mahmoud Abbas flew on Monday from Ireland to New York, where he will attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Israeli security officials have warned in recent months that the PA is losing control of the northern West Bank, including Nablus.
Earlier this month, military chief Aviv Kohavi slammed the PA for its inability to govern areas in the northern West Bank, where troops have repeatedly come under gunfire during nightly raids, amid a months-long operation aimed at preventing Palestinian terrorists from committing attacks.
The Israel Defense Forces launched the operation, dubbed Breakwater, after a series of deadly terror attacks that killed 19 people between mid-March and the beginning of May.
More than 2,000 suspects have been detained since the start of the operation, according to the Shin Bet security service.
In Israeli raids across the West Bank early Tuesday, troops detained eight wanted Palestinians, the IDF said. During an arrest operation in the Palestinian village of Bidu, a soldier was lightly hurt by stones hurled by Palestinians, the military added.
Meanwhile, at least 97 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces so far this year, according to a tally from the PA health ministry. The list included Palestinians who carried out attacks inside Israel, teens violently protesting the IDF’s nightly raids and Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh.
Many of the IDF’s arrests in recent months have concentrated on Nablus and Jenin, where a number of the terrorists who committed the attacks earlier this year hailed from.
Last week, US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said the Biden administration is working to ensure the continuation of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority amid the ongoing spike in West Bank violence.
Emanuel Fabian and AFP contributed to this report.