The United Nations and apparently all the PA Arab factions have reacted with outrage to a report of PA security officers who arrested Ahmad Izz Halaweh, the main suspect in a shooting that killed two policemen, and beat him to death in prison Tuesday morning. The UN denounced the killing as an “apparent extrajudicial execution.” Hamas said the killing marked a new height in the PA security forces’ collaboration with Israel. The PLO, for its part, accused Hamas of making political hay out of the incident, in order to “mislead the Palestinian people.”
According to Arab media reports, Halaweh was arrested in predawn raids in the Old City of Shechem, Samaria, on Tuesday and hauled to the Juneid security compound, where he was attacked and severely beaten by security officers. Akram Rujoub, the Governor of Shechem, later reported his death. At that point, a very graphic photo of Halaweh after being attacked, showing his seriously damaged face, neck, and shoulders, was shared on social media.
Halaweh, the most senior leader of the PLO’s militia Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the Shechem area, was the third civilian to be killed by PA security in retaliation for Thursday’s shooting, Arab media reported. Two other civilians were shot dead on Friday during raids in the Old City, three more were arrested on Sunday, and five remain in hiding.
James Heenan, head of the UN Human Rights Office in Judea and Samaria, released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the UN is “extremely concerned about the apparent extrajudicial execution,” and welcomes “the prompt announcement of an investigation into the killing by Prime Minister Hamdallah, and urge the Palestinian authorities to hold independent investigations into the string of events since last week that have now seen five people lose their lives.”
Heenan wants the security officers involved in the “unlawful killings” to be “brought to justice and be suspended, pending the completion of the investigation.” He noted firmly that “there is no place for such acts in a State of Palestine that seeks to abide by international human rights law,” and warned that “Our Office will follow this case closely.”
According to Jack Khoury, writing for Ha’aretz, the much-anticipated October 8 municipal elections, in which Hamas is likely to participate and score a significant victory, have inflamed the already contentious Arab cities in the PA. The latest eruption of violence in Shechem is getting intense coverage in the Arab media inside and outside the PA, because of its high death toll (for this part of the Middle East — elsewhere the death of five Arab civilians might be considered a lull in the violence). However, Khoury suggests that, regardless of the upcoming vote, armed gangs and the PA security services have been fighting each other in Shechem for some time.
It turns out that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Shechem have evolved into criminal gangs, and are fighting police over control of the casbah and other profitable city neighborhoods.
Armed warfare is spreading across the PA, Khoury writes, with gangland shootings in several Arab towns and the refugee camps, leading to the conclusion that PA security forces have long since lost control of the situation. In other words, as Shechem residents cited by Khoury are saying, what is being presented as an ideological warfare between political factions in the PA, is, in fact, turf war between criminal enterprises.