NABLUS, WEST BANK // Nablus, the second largest city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was gripped by violent protests on Tuesday after the death of a Palestinian detainee.
Ahmed Halawa, the alleged ringleader in the killing of two Palestinian policemen last week, died in custody after being beaten by security forces, according to the governor of Nablus.
Hundreds of protesters, some throwing stones, marched through the city to denounce his death.
“Security forces detained Ahmed Izz Halawa during a complicated and delicate security operation in Nablus,” said Adnan Al Dmairi, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s security services.
Halawa was killed after he was taken to Juneid prison in Nablus, Mr Al Dmairi said, although the exact circumstances of his death were not clear.
Kamal Al Rjoub, the governor of Nablus, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Halawa was severely beaten by security personnel, lost conciousness and later died.
Halawa was a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militant group linked to the Fatah party.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and is a bitter rival of the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority ruling the West Bank, condemned Halawa’s “execution”.
It said it showed “the bloody nature of the Palestinian Authority’s security services”.
Hamas and Fatah are due to contest municipal elections across the Palestinian territories in October.
Palestinian prime minister Rami Al Hamdallah promised a full investigation, describing the incident as “rare”.
In some cases militants have become involved in criminal activity, which the Palestinian security forces have been cracking down on, the Palestinian government said.
Last week, security forces carried out a raid in Nablus targeting a criminal group suspected of harbouring weapons. Two suspects were killed, one of them a relative of Halawa’s, and two officers were shot dead.
Mr Al Rjoub, the governor, said Halawa was “the mastermind” behind the shooting of the officers.
The Palestinian Authority is responsible for security and policing inside Palestinian cities and municipal areas, while Israeli security forces retain full control over around 60 per cent of the West Bank, all of which the Palestinians seek for an independent state, alongside East Jerusalem and Gaza.
* Reuters and Agence France-Presse