The alleged ringleader in the killing of two Palestinian policemen has died in custody after being beaten by Palestinian security forces, a senior local official said on Tuesday.
The officers were killed in the West Bank city of Nablus last week when gunmen opened fire on security forces.
Two of the gunmen died in the subsequent shootout.
Ahmed Halawa, the alleged leader of the attackers, was arrested by police overnight and taken to the city’s Jneid prison, Nablus governor Akram Rajub told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Once there, he was severely beaten by security personnel, lost consciousness and later died, Rajub said.
“We’ll examine the incident and draw lessons from it,” he said.
According to Palestinian security services spokesperson Adnan Dmeiri, “he started to shout and swear at the security officers who started to attack him,” the Maan news agency reported.
Although commanders tried to protect him, he died, Dmeiri said.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and is a bitter rival of the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority ruling the West Bank, condemned Halawa’s “execution.”
It said it showed “the bloody nature of the Palestinian Authority’s security services.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced that a special committee would look into the death.
Halaweh’s family condemned the murder, describing him as “a noble national leader who was killed in cold blood without the least observance of human rights,” Maan reported citing the al-Quds’s website.
He was the third suspect to die in an ongoing hunt for members of a gang that has seen three others arrested and six more still on the run.
“Security forces won’t withdraw from the Old City of Nablus before the six are arrested and brought to justice,” Dmeiri said.
Hamas and Fatah are due to contest municipal elections across the Palestinian territories in October.
Amnesty International has accused Palestinian security forces of routinely mistreating prisoners, with torture common and committed with impunity.
Under the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel, Palestinian police are only authorized to operate in 18 percent of the West Bank, encompassing most of the major Palestinian towns, including Nablus.
The northern West Bank has seen a number of Palestinian police raids in recent months. The area has witnessed factional infighting within the ruling Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.