Representatives of the Palestinian faction of Nablus reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority's security forces on Wednesday, aiming to restore calm to the West Bank city that saw clashes erupt following arrests of Hamas operatives.
The agreement – which comes a day after Palestinian forces arrested two Hamas members wanted by Israel – states that security forces will no longer carry out such arrests unless operatives are suspected of breaking Palestinian law.
Clashes erupted in the city after the arrests of Musab Ashtaya and Mohammed Tabila. Ashtaya was part of a local armed squad known as the “Nablus Battalion” or the “Lions of Nablus,” and is suspected of involvement in shooting at Israeli forces and worshippers at the Tomb of Joseph in Nablus.
After the arrests Tuesday, protesters burned tires and threw stones at the Palestinian forces, and shots were heard in the city’s main square. Armed men in Nablus and Jenin took to the streets and warned the PA forces not to cooperate with Israel.
The agreement also calls for the establishment of a special committee to track Ashtaya's status and work toward his release. The sides additionally agreed on the release of city residents who were arrested during the clashes, except those suspected of purposely damaging property or of stealing.
- Nablus erupts after arrest of Hamas men by Palestinian security forces
- Israel could be one attack away from a Palestinian intifada
- From violence to collapse: Palestinian Authority faces critical weeks
According to a Palestinian security source, Ashtaya began to operate outside the old city of Nablus and took on the trappings of a commander of the zone, which led to his arrest. Israeli security services confirmed that it had made five unsuccessful attempts to arrest Ashtaya in the past.
A spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, Talal Dweikat, said Tuesday the two Hamas men were arrested in the framework of the forces’ “security needs.” He added that they were in good condition and representatives of human rights groups would be allowed to visit them.