PA arrests resistance fighters in Nablus, many injured and one man left dead after clashes

Palestinian 'security forces' during clashes with demonstrators in Nablus (Mariam Barghouti - MW)

Mariam Bargouti

Mondoweiss  /  September 23, 2022

Fulfilling its role as Israel’s proxy army, the Palestinian Authority has arrested resistance fighters in Nablus, followed by violent clashes with Nablus residents amidst chants of PA collaborationism.

On Monday, September 19, security forces belonging to the Palestinian Authority (PA) raided the city of Nablus, 80 km northeast of Ramallah, in order to arrest two Palestinian resistance fighters wanted by Israel, Musaab Shtayyeh, 30, and Ameed Tbeileh, 21. 

One Palestinian, 55-year-old Firas Yaish, was killed, while several others were injured, including Abed El Fattah who was hit with three bullets and was left in critical condition at the Arab Specialized Hospital. 

Musaab Shtayyeh is on hunger strike according to his father, Akef Shtayyeh, 60. “His health is deteriorating, according to his lawyer,” Akef told Mondoweiss. “Musaab already has thyroid problems and health issues, and his hunger strike will also add to that.” 

While the PA’s arrest of resistance fighters amid a large-scale assassination campaign against them may have been a shock to some Palestinians, there was a vastly different atmosphere engulfing Nablus, specifically in the Old City. 

Mondoweiss was on the ground in the Old City and met with some of the resistance fighters stationed there. Shtayyeh, who was arrested by the PA in Jericho, was also a close comrade of the slain fighter Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, the “Lion of Nablus,” assassinated by the Israeli regime on August 9 this year. 

The PA serves as Israel’s proxy army

Ever since Monday evening, when PA forces kidnapped Musaab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tbeileh, the city of Nablus and its neighboring towns have been aflame. The streets are full of burning tires and a layer of stones marked the battle that took place a short while before. 

The factions of armed resistance fighters had released a statement earlier on Tuesday, September 20, calling on Palestinians to revolt against the detainment of the young resistance fighters. 

“We inform that until now we have been silent and no subversive actions have been taken yet in response to this arrest, despite our capacity to do so,” the statement said.

A few hours later, a call to action was disseminated amongst Palestinian social media and media reports. 

“To all our people in our valiant city, the city of martyrs and resistance, we salute you in defiance and steadfastness,” it said, followed by a call to close all city roads at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday in protest against the attack on resistance fighters. This attack has come amidst a brutal Israeli military crackdown dubbed “Operation Break the Wave,” in which the PA is now an informal participant.

Palestinian youth in neighboring towns and villages, especially refugee camps, responded to the call. The roads to Nablus were blocked with trash cans and burning tires, but the familiar orange flames that stretched several kilometers around the city, usually signaling a confrontation with the Israeli army, now marked a different warzone with the armed Palestinian security forces.

The absence of Israeli soldiers, who were usually stationed at the different entrances to Nablus, was almost eerie. The road to Nablus near Balata refugee camp was closed off, and the sound of teargas, stun grenades, and live ammunition echoed from Martyr’s Square, a few kilometers away. 

The young men and boys roaming the streets were visibly exhausted. Drivers who seemed foreign to the towns and city were encouraged to turn around. Yet for those that managed to enter Martyr’s Square, the sight was at once heart-breaking and anti-climactic — almost performative, but no less threatening and volatile. 

“What a disgusting situation,” a man in his 40s says, as he watches Palestinian security forces fire teargas amid the sound of live ammunition ringing in the near distance. 

Dozens of Palestinian families were treated for teargas inhalation, while tens were injured by PA fire. At least five youth were reported to have been hit with PA forces’ live ammunition by 10 p.m. on Tuesday, medics on the ground told Mondoweiss at the time.

The bullets of resistance fighters were this time guided by the demand to have their comrades released from the custody of the Palestinian Preventative Security, headed by Ziad Hab al-Reeh, who has been the Minister of Interior since January of this year.

The sounds of live ammunition persisted until past midnight. The official number of injuries in the ranks of the PA forces documented by the Red Crescent, reportedly from the live ammunition of the resistance fighters, was comically low — only 25 injuries announced, due to restrictions on reporting by the PA.

The battleground was almost identical to what the city had grown used to during Israeli army raids. Most striking of all was the sight of the PA’s armored vehicles, resembling those of the Israeli army, while their tactics in quelling the protests seemed to be lifted from the Israeli playbook. Truly, it was as though Israel were delegating its task of colonial domination to its PA proxies. 

 “This is such an ugly sight,” some of the men observing on Martyr’s Square would say repeatedly. Shaking their heads, almost in disappointment, they kept watching on in passivity as the only officially armed force in the West Bank continued its crackdown.

The youth were not to be dissuaded, while resistance brigades in both Nablus and Jenin continued to escalate retaliatory measures, in a bid to leverage for the release of their comrades

With confrontation and unwavering demands for the release of the resistance fighters, meetings were held between various representatives extending from late Tuesday evening to the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

At approximately 2:00 a.m., Wednesday morning, final briefings of the meetings reported that the PA will pursue an investigation into the killing of Yaish. Shortly after, photos of PA officials cleaning the streets of Nablus were disseminated to journalists and the media — almost gleefully demonstrating that the PA had successfully calmed the state of uproar in the Old City and its surroundings.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss