Shechem on edge: Palestinians clash with PA security forces over arrest of Hamas commander

Riots broke out in protest of possibility Hamas fugitive Musab Shtayyeh will be handed over to Israel.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Palestinian security forces boosted security forces in Shechem (Nablus) on Tuesday, including taking the unusual step of deploying snipers on rooftops, Ynet reported.

The show of force came as Palestinians rioted in protest of the Palestinian Authority’s arrest of Musab Shtayyeh, a senior Hamas commander and two other fugitives.

The demonstrators oppose the possibility of the PA handing Shtayyeh over to Israel.

Haaretz reported that the arrests were made at Israel’s request.

According to Ynet, gunfire was heard in parts of the city and at the funeral of Fars Ya’ish, a 53-year-old bystander killed during the violence . Ya’ish, who was hit in the head by a bullet during a shootout.

Seven other Palestinians were wounded in the rioting.

Demonstrators blocked the entrances to the city with cars and burning tires while youths threw stones at armored PA security vehicles, burned garbage cans and broke security cameras.

Further clashes broke out in several nearby villages and in the Balata Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Shechem. The UNRWA-administered camp is home to 27,000 Palestinian refugees.

According to Ynet, a general strike in protest of Shtayyeh’s arrest was called in the city and that classes at An-Najaf University were suspended for the safety of the students.

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Further demonstrations are expected in Jenin and Ramallah.

Shtayyeh was associated with Ibrahim Nabulsi, a prominent member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who was killed in a shootout with Israeli security forces in August.

Palestinian media reports cited by Ynet said Shtayyeh carried out shooting attacks on Israelis in Judea and Samaria alongside Nabulsi.

The violence broke out as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was on his way to New York. Abbas is due to address the opening session of the UN General Assembly on Friday.

Appealing for calm, Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Rudeina called on Palestinians “to unite and not be dragged behind malicious agendas.”

“Our national principles must be preserved in the face of all conspiracies. We emphasize the sanctity of Palestinian blood and the need to maintain order and security on the Palestinian street,” he said. “Our main struggle is the occupation, the liberation of Jerusalem and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on our national land.”

Haaretz reported that Shechem Mayor Rami Hijawi has called a meeting of Palestinian faction leaders and other municipal dignitaries to restore quiet.

Ya’ish is believed to be the first Palestinian killed in a PA security operation since Nizar Banat was beaten to death in 2021 by PA security forces while in custody.

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In a statement published in the PA-run Wafa News Agency, Talal Dweikat, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces said that Ya’ish’s death was “a result of an injury whose nature has not yet been determined,” and that witnesses “confirmed that there were no security elements at the location where Ya’ish was killed.”