Palestinian security forces fire tear gas canisters and flash grenades at angry Palestinian protesters during the funeral of a terrorist in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. It was a rare encounter that exposed deep public dissatisfaction with the Palestinian self-rule government.
Palestinians gather in the northern West Bank city of Nablus for the funeral of Abdul Fatah Kharoshah, a 49-year-old Hamas militant who was killed in an Israeli strike on Tuesday. Kharoshah was wanted in connection with the murder of two Israeli brothers in the nearby town of Hawara. It was the latest bloody attack in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp, killing five other Palestinians and injuring more than two dozen.
Chaos broke out at Wednesday’s funeral procession through Nablus when mourners began chanting against the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank. The PA has long resented its security cooperation with Israel, which allows its security forces to crack down on its Islamist rival, the Hamas terrorist group.
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“terrorist!” The crowd shouted at the Palestinian security forces. “Spy!”
According to Palestinian security spokesman Talal Dwikat, Palestinian forces intervened when a group of Hamas supporters disrupted the procession and grabbed the shrouded body, nearly toppling it. The group turned the funeral into a protest against the PA, said Dwikat, “instead of cursing the (Israeli) occupation which has committed crimes against our people.”
Palestinian security forces fired tear gas at the crowd, sent mourners in all directions, and returned Kharushah’s body in an ambulance. They also prevented anyone from raising Hamas flags, even though Kharoshah’s body was covered in one. There was no information about any casualty.
The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority is a fierce rival of Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip from President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces in 2007. Reconciliation attempts have repeatedly failed.
The funeral scenes drew condemnation from throughout Palestinian society. Hamas notably took advantage of the opportunity to condemn the PA’s use of force against its own people. Many Palestinians see the rule of 87-year-old Abbas as increasingly autocratic, with the regime cracking down on critics, civil society organizations and democracy advocacy.
Hamas said, “The suppression of the funeral procession in Nablus … marks a new moral failure in the black record of (the PA’s) oppression and mistreatment of our own people.”
Further highlighting the divisions in Palestinian society, Fatah voiced its condemnation of Wednesday’s pogrom, accusing Hamas of “treason” and “causing conflict”, which opened with a military salute and should have been a unifying occasion Was.
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The incursion comes at a time of heightened violence in the West Bank, where many young Palestinians disillusioned with the PA are taking up arms against Israel’s open-ended occupation. Support is growing for new armed groups that claim no ties to any Palestinian party. Under pressure from Israel and the United States, the PA has sought to rein in the budding militia, but risks further inciting the public.
Already this year, Israeli military strikes have killed at least 70 Palestinians, according to an Associated Press tally, about half of them militants. 14 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis, all but one civilian.
Settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank has also escalated, with a mob attack on Hawara following the killing of two Israeli brothers last month – the worst violence in recent memory. The settlers set dozens of homes, businesses and cars on fire and attacked Palestinians, killing one and injuring others.
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In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, prominent Palestinian activist Issa Amro said on Wednesday that Israeli residents attacked her home, throwing alcohol bottles, breaking into her backyard and overturning chairs and tables. A video of the incident initially appeared showing Israeli soldiers standing and watching as settlers bombarded Amro’s house with stones. The Israeli military described the video as “partial” and said that soldiers had arrested the settlers for further questioning.
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