JERUSALEM (AP) — Fighting erupted in a refugee camp in the northern occupied West Bank Wednesday between Palestinians and their own security forces, Palestinian authorities said, leaving a 25-year-old Palestinian dead. The unrest underscored the challenges facing Palestinian police trying to impose order in the restive territory.
Elsewhere in the occupied territory, Israeli security forces shot a Palestinian man who they said tried to ram his car into soldiers at a military checkpoint, hitting and lightly wounding a soldier, authorities said. It was the latest incident in one of the West Bank’s most violent phases in years.
Palestinian police entered the refugee camp in Tulkarem after residents appealed to the Palestinian Authority to remove metal street barriers set up by local militants that were blocking access to homes and schools, Palestinian security spokesperson Talal Dweikat said. The angled metal barricades are a staple in the militarized refugee camps of the northern West Bank, meant to deter Israeli military vehicles during the frequent army raids.
After police cleared the streets, Dweikat said Palestinian militants opened fire in front of the Tulkarem Muqata, the authority headquarters. Police responded “to control the security situation,” he added.
A Palestinian security officer in Tulkarem, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said that an uninvolved Palestinian resident who he identified as the 25-year-old was caught in the crossfire and killed.
He claimed the Palestinian security forces had fired tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants but not live fire. Palestinians, he said, were seeking to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death but the local militant group refused and was keeping his body.
The Hamas militant group condemned the death. Palestinian security forces said they are investigating.
In flashpoint point cities in the northern West Bank under the administration of the Palestinian Authority, attempts by Palestinian security forces to reassert internal control have stirred anger among defiant militants, who deride the unpopular authority and its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, as collaborators with Israel. The PA adminsters semi-autonomous areas in the Israeli-occupied territory.
Unable to protect Palestinians against surging attacks by Jewish settlers and often deadly Israeli military raids into Palestinian towns and cities, Palestinian security forces have faced deep public criticism over their perceived impotence and reviled security alliance with Israel that dates back to the Oslo peace accords three decades ago.
Even as the fighting in Tulkarem camp petered out, the situation remained tense. The head of police in nearby Jenin, Brig. Gen. Azzam Jebara, said the authority was sending police reinforcements to Tulkarem.
Meanwhile the Israeli military reported that the attempted car-ramming attack occurred near Beit Hagai, a Jewish settlement in the hills south of the large Palestinian city of Hebron. It said Israeli security forces had shot the Palestinian driver as he accelerated toward the military post. The soldier struck by the car was evacuated to a hospital. Images from the scene showed the car’s air bag bloodied and driver’s seat window riddled with bullet holes.
There was no immediate word on the condition of the suspected Palestinian assailant.
Nearly 180 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since the start of this year, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. But stone throwing youths protesting the incursions and those not involved in the confrontations have also been killed.
Some 30 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that time.
Israel says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. Palestinians say the raids undermine their security forces, inspire more militancy and entrench Israeli control over lands they seek for a hoped-for future state. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.