Three Palestinian Authority (PA) security officers were reportedly injured during a gunfight yesterday lasting several hours in the Balata camp in Nablus, as they attempted to confiscate weapons in the West Bank city.
During the early hours of the morning, the PA forces moved in to Balata, which is one of the largest and most heavily populated refugee camps in the West Bank. Analyst Avi Issacharoff writes in the Times of Israel that the aim of the operation was to confiscate weapons and restore order to the area following intelligence that a large cache of arms had been amassed in Balata.
Apparently, the PA forces faced opposition as they entered the camp and Ma’an news agency reports that three PA security personnel were injured and several vehicles damaged during the clash which lasted several hours. In addition, the main street was closed, as were local schools and residents were instructed to stay indoors. Newsweek says that the skirmish constituted “one of the biggest gun battles in recent years” for PA forces in Nablus.
The PA maintains all administrative and security control in major West Bank cities such as Nablus under the terms of the Oslo Accords. However, groups such as Hamas have a presence in these areas and often attempt to challenge the authority of the PA. Meanwhile, despite the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the PA last April, the two sides continue to cooperate on security issues which plays a significant role in maintaining order in PA-controlled areas.
Reporting yesterday’s clash, Newsweek says that violent tension between residents and PA forces is on the rise in the West Bank, “as disillusionment grows towards the Palestinian leadership, headed by [PA] president Mahmoud Abbas.” It has been reported recently that Abbas is facing an increasing challenge from political rival Mohammed Dahlan, who previously headed Palestinian security forces in Gaza but was expelled by Abbas from the Fatah faction and effectively exiled to Dubai in 2011.