Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Abbas’s policemen clash with Fatah gunmen in Nablus

From Khalid Amayreh in the Occupied West Bank

"Undisciplined and poorly-trained Palestinian Authority policemen on Monday clashed with Fatah gunmen at the Balata refugee camp near Nablus. At least nine people, mostly civilians, were injured, two of them seriously.

Earlier, as many as 300 policemen were deployed in Nablus, the most lawless city in the West Bank, in an effort to reestablish law and order and prove to the Americans that the Ramallah-based regime was capable of assuming “security responsibilities” in the West Bank. The deployment of the policemen was fully coordinated with the Israeli occupation army.

Townspeople, utterly upset by a lingering reign of terror imposed on the city of Nablus by gangsters calling themselves al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, initially welcomed the arrival of the policemen, hoping that their presence would help stem the tide of lawlessness and terror in the city..

However, the revelation made yesterday that the policemen could only operate in the city and its surrounding during certain hours of the day and no later than midnight, apparently to allow the Israeli army to operate freely, made many Nablusites dismiss the policemen as “tools of Israel.”

Some Nablusites have even spoken of a tacit collaboration between the deployed police force and the Israeli occupation army for the purpose of arresting resistance fighters, including those affiliated with Fatah.

On Monday, shortly after the PA policemen returned to their dorms, a large Israeli force entered the city unopposed and arrested Sheikh Maher al-Kharaz, a local Islamic leader. Al-Kharaz’s two sons are already in custody, one in Israeli jails and the other in a PA prison.

Al-Kharaz, a respected Islamic figure in Nablus, was briefly arrested by the PA security authorities in Nablus for taking part in a protest against the murder by the Israeli occupation authorities of local activists and civilians.

The PA hopes that success in restoring law and order in Nablus, which locals say is a formidable task, it would be in a better position to press Israel to withdraw from more Palestinian population centers in the West Bank.

The Israeli army re-occupied the erstwhile self-rule enclaves in the West Bank shortly in 2001 following the al-Aqsa intifada or uprising against the Israeli occupation. The Palestinians had interpreted the Oslo Agreement as promising a fully sovereign and free state, but Israel viewed the agreement as only promising a very limited self-rule authority with the Israeli army retaining ultimate control of the occupied territories.

The Aqsa Brigades gunmen are believed to be responsible for numerous acts of murder, extortion, vandalism as well as levying protection money from local businesses. The gunmen also spearheaded a continuing campaign of terror and vandalism against Hamas supporters and institutions in the northern West Bank, including the murder of at least three people......"

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