West Bank: One killed as Palestinian forces clash with resistance fighters
One man was killed as Palestinian Authority (PA) forces clashed with resistance fighters in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm on Wednesday.
According to local media, the clashes started after PA forces attempted to remove barricades placed at the entrance to the city’s refugee camp, which is used by resistance fighters to obstruct Israeli military raids.
Armed men in the city disputed the removal of the barricades, leading to an argument with PA forces. An exchange of fire erupted minutes later, local media said.
Palestinian police confirmed in a statement the death of a “young man in a shooting in Tulkarm camp” and said that security services have launched an investigation into the incident.
The young man was identified as Abd al-Qadir Zaqdah by his family.
His uncle, Fadi Zaqdah, told Middle East Eye that Abd al-Qadirm, 22, was fatally shot in the neck while he was going home after buying some groceries from a shop in the camp.
'The security services opened fire on the brigade and other residents, seriously wounding a young man'
- Tulkarm Brigade statement
"We don’t know who fired the bullet at him, so we transferred his body for autopsy at the Arab Specialist Hospital in Nablus," Fadi said.
"If those in charge of the autopsy were honest, the truth and who killed our son would appear."
The Tulkarm Brigade, a small group of armed men involved in resisting the Israeli occupation, issued a statement condemning the use of lethal force by PA officers, accusing them of firing at residents.
“The security services opened fire on the brigade [members] and other residents, seriously wounding a young man,” the group said.
“We won’t remain silent, and we will not tolerate this deadly violation and actions that help the occupation.”
An eyewitness, who preferred not to be named, told MEE they saw PA security officers indiscriminately using tear gas at peaceful crowds.
“The security forces were shouting at the people and pushing them away from the entrance of the camp to complete their work in removing the barricades,” they said.
“From the window, I saw laser lights from the snipers stationed inside the PA district headquarters. These lights were directed at dozens of places in the camp, including the children’s school.”
Talal Dweikat, spokesperson for the PA security services, said that a gunman opened fire at the Tulkarm governorate building, prompting forces to take “necessary measures to restore order”.
He added that forces were operating to remove the barricades after residents complained they were restricting their movement.
The Islamic Jihad's armed wing in Tulkarm denied Dweikat's claim that the barricades were causing inconvenience to residents and blamed the PA for killing Zaqdah.
"We were in contact with the PA security services when their forces arrived but we were surprised when they started shooting at civilians," the group said in a statement.
"We confirm that our fighters did not shoot back at PA officers and that our guns are only directed at the Israeli occupation."
Like other cities in the north of the West Bank, Tulkarm has seen a resurgence of armed resistance against Israel's occupation in recent months.
The Israeli military has increased raids in the city to stamp out the armed groups.
The PA, which coordinates security affairs with Israel, also stepped up arrests of Palestinians accused of being involved in fighting the Israeli occupation.
'From this moment on, any entry by the PA forces into Tulkarm camp will be met with live fire, the same way the Israeli troops are met'
- Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
PA officers routinely go into Palestinian cities to remove barricades set up by the armed groups, drawing the ire of fighters.
A spokesperson for Hamas, the biggest group in opposition to the PA, called Zaqdah's killing a “national and moral crime”.
“We urge the Fatah movement to take a clear position against this crime,” Abdel-Latif al-Qanou said.
A statement signed off by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed group affiliated with Fatah, which dominates the PA, lambasted Palestinian forces for the killing.
"We have long asked the PA to stop targeting resistance fighters and have tried to look the other way when it came to the treacherous acts taken by some of the leadership in the PA," the statement said.
"But after today's events, we want to clearly say that we will cut off the hands of those who deliver our resistance fighters to Israel, and those who slander them.
"From this moment on, any entry by the PA forces into Tulkarm camp will be met with live fire, the same way the Israeli troops are met."
Muhannad Karajeh, head of the Lawyers for Justice group, told MEE that the increasing use of lethal force by the PA against peaceful assemblies in the West Bank is a dangerous escalation.
“When there are tense events, why do the security services not withdraw in the presence of citizens? Why do they not open a line of negotiation with institutions and popular committees? Why do they prefer confrontation more than withdrawal?" Karajeh asked.
"This raises another question: is there an intention by the security services to engage in clashes to impose their control?"
Last year, a 53-year-old Palestinian man was killed after armed clashes broke out between Palestinian security forces and protesters in Nablus after the Palestinian Authority arrested a high-ranking Hamas member wanted by Israel in an ambush.