Palestinian officer killed, 2 gunman injured during armed clashes in Balata

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March 19, 2017

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Palestinian security officers in Balata refugee camp (File)

NABLUS (Ma’an) — A Palestinian policeman was killed Sunday night during armed clashes that erupted in Balata refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus, after Palestinian forces raided the camp to detain “wanted fugitives,” Palestinian security forces said.

The clashes left another policeman and at least two gunmen injured — one of whom was detained while the other managed to escape.

Local sources told Ma’an that Palestinian security forces ambushed the camp at the eastern cemetery dressed as civilians, sparking clashes with gunmen that lasted some 15 minutes.

Governor of Nablus Akram Rajoub said that Palestinian security forces officer Hasan Ali Abu al-Haj from the village of Kobar northwest of Ramallah was killed after being shot in the head, and was declared dead sometime later after succumbing to the injury. Rajoub noted that Abu al-Haj was newly married, just six months ago.

Palestinian security forces officer Hasan Ali Abu al-Haj

A Palestinian security forces official said that “the most wanted man” in Balata refugee camp was seriously injured during the gun battle, identified as Ahmad Abu Hamada, also known as “al-Zabour.”

Abu Hamada was sustained to bullet wounds in his head and another in his stomach.

The official said that police were able to detain the wounded man as forces retreated from the camp.

Ahmad Abu Hamada

Another unidentified gunman who was injured “refused to surrender for medical care” and managed to escape, the official added.

Abu Hamada was taken to the operating room at Rafidia Governmental Hospital in Nablus, and transferred Monday morning to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, according a statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The ministry said that Abu Hamada “received proper medical care in Rafidia hospital,” but was transferred to Palestine Medical Complex to undergo surgery. The statement said that medical staff were “doing their best to provide proper medical care” for Abu Hamada, noting that his condition had stabilized. 

Balata refugee camp has been a site of violent clashes between Palestinian security forces and residents of the camp since a massive security crackdown was launched across the West Bank, which turned deadly last August, after two policemen were killed during a raid into the Old City in Nablus to uncover weapons and make arrests.
The ensuing manhunt for the gunmen responsible left three suspects killed by Palestinian security forces, sparking international outrage over what the UN deemed “extrajudicial executions,” particular after one detainee was beaten to death in police custody.
After security forces conducted a failed ambush operation to detain a “fugitive” from Balata last month, Governor Rujoub told Ma’an that police had begun implementing a “new method” of detaining wanted fugitives by conducting targeted ambush operations, which he said was a way to “avoid harming innocent citizens” in the densely populated refugee camp.

“These outlaws are trying to trick security forces into carrying out a major campaign in Balata to harm citizens,” Rajoub claimed at the time. “However, security services and political leadership refuse to do that. We insist that residents of the camp enjoy safety and security.”

Amid the ongoing security crackdown, the PA has faced widespread criticism over the unclear circumstances in which Palestinian fugitives have been arrested and killed.

The crackdown also comes as Palestinian political factions have repeatedly accused the Palestinian Authority of “escalating security collaboration” with Israeli authorities and “adopting a revolving door policy” of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

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