Palestinian raid sparks gunfights, protests

There have been fierce gun battles in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, after Palestinian security forces arrested militants wanted by Israel.

A 53-year-old man was killed and there have been violent street protests.

It marks a further deterioration of security in the West Bank and is a sign of growing dissatisfaction among Palestinians with their leadership, after months of Israeli incursions.

An official warned of the risk of “civil war” if calm was not restored.

Meanwhile, the militant group, Hamas, accused its rivals in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs parts of the West Bank, of a “national crime” by carrying out the raid.

The atmosphere in the cities of Nablus and Jenin has grown more volatile as ordinary Palestinians contend with near-nightly raids by the Israeli army, sparking gun battles with increasingly well-armed militants, while control by the PA has been disintegrating.

Since January, more than 90 Palestinians, including militants and civilians, have been killed in the West Bank, mostly by Israeli security forces. The raids intensified from April, after a wave of deadly attacks by Palestinians and Arab Israelis on the streets of Israel which killed 18 people.

Monday’s raid appears to have involved a botched attempt by the PA to revive its authority in the heart of Nablus.

PA security forces detained two militants, including Musab Shtayyeh, who was described by Hamas as one of its senior members. He has previously been jailed several times by Israel and was added to its wanted list in 2020.

His father, Akif Shtayyeh, told the BBC his son was a freed prisoner who was “not wanted by the Palestinian Authorities” and called for his immediate release.

“The repercussions of his kidnapping may lead to turning the situation into dire consequences,” he said.

The raid sparked armed confrontations with Palestinian gunmen. Later, during protests, 53-year-old Firas Yaish was killed. He was reportedly a bystander. PA officials said security forces were not present in the area and that it was not clear how he died.

The protests have continued into the day, with gunfires heard in the centre of Nablus, where demonstrators called for the prisoners’ release and pelted PA patrol vehicles with stones. -BBC

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