Dahlan supporters complain of PA crackdown in West Bank camps

Supporters of exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan say they have been targets of a crackdown by Palestinian security forces since the UAE-Israel normalization agreement.

al-monitor A Palestinian woman walks down a street in the Amari refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 29, 2020. Photo by ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images.
Ahmad Melhem

Ahmad Melhem


Topics covered

palestinian cause, palestinian authority, palestinian refugee camps, palestinian politics, mohammed dahlan

Nov 6, 2020

RAMALLAH, West Bank — In an unfamiliar scene in the West Bank, dozens of young people in the Amari refugee camp near Ramallah cheered in support of dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan during confrontations with the Palestinian Authority's security forces Oct. 27.

The clashes broke out after young men blocked the main street in front of the camp, where they burned tires to protest the arrest of members of the Democratic Reform Current affiliated with Dahlan and demand their release. The security forces responded by sending a large number of officers to clear the street and arrest the protesters.

During the clashes, the young men threw stones at the security forces and broke traffic lights. The security forces responded by throwing stun grenades and tear gas.

After hours of clashes, the security forces broke into the camp at dawn and arrested eight people, including two brothers of a leader in the Democratic Reform Current, Jihad Tamlay. Al-Monitor tried to contact Tamlay, but he did not answer.

In an Oct. 28 Facebook post, Tamlay wrote, “You cannot stop us and you cannot muffle the voice of truth. The PA security forces have been proceeding with their political arrests and they broke into Amari camp at 3 a.m. with hundreds of forces. They are suffocating the camp with tear gas grenades and raiding its club and institutions. They arrested my brothers Harbi and Ahmad Tamlay, Ali Idriss, Ahmad al-Enabi and Munzer Abbas for attending the meeting held in Amari against political arrests.”

Local institutions and members of the Democratic Reform Current in the camp held a meeting Oct. 23 after five members were notified that they were wanted by the security forces. In a statement, the convening members called the warrants politically motivated and said that they would ignore them.

In the wake of Israel and the United Arab Emirates signing a normalization agreement Sept. 15, PA security forces began wide-scale arrests of Dahlan supporters in the West Bank. 

While the Democratic Reform Current claims that the campaign against its members is political, security sources previously told Al-Monitor that the arrests were due to weapons possession and Dahlan’s current wiring funds into the West Bank.

Fatah and PA leaders did not comment on the incident. The police released a statement Oct. 28 saying that the security forces arrested eight people suspected of inciting riots, damaging public property and breaking traffic lights in front of Amari camp. They blocked the street, threw stones at security forces and obstructed citizens’ commutes, the statement read.

The police stated, “The people arrested include several outlaws, weapons traders and people with a record of abuse against citizens, shops and properties. Cell phones and laptops that were in their possession were confiscated, and it seems they were planning to use them in their attacks.”

Tensions in Amari continue, with young men still sporadically blocking the streets and burning tires. The situation is expected to escalate with security forces raiding Tamlay's house and showing his family a warrant for his arrest.

Only two days after the Amari incidents, the Balata camp in Nablus city in the north of the West Bank witnessed clashes between young men and security forces as they entered the camp Oct. 31 after the killing of Hatem Abu Rizk, a well-known activist in the camp.

The narratives regarding Abu Rizk’s killing differed. According to the Nablus governorate and security forces, Abu Rizk died of a self-inflicted injury while he attempted to throw an explosive during a family feud in the camp. Other media outlets accused the security forces of killing him.

In a statement Oct. 31, the police confirmed the death of Abu Rizk following the detonation of an explosive device he was carrying during the feud. The police added that a “large, armored security force headed to the camp and proceeded to break up the clash and control the gunfire. The forces were targeted with stones and fire, and an officer was shot in the stomach and suffered an injury of moderate severity.”

The incidents in the Amari and Balata camps made people wonder whether they were connected and whether the clashes between the PA and Dahlan’s current have become violent.

Jamal al-Tirawi, a leader in the Democratic Reform Current in Balata camp and a former member of the dissolved Palestinian Legislative Council, told Al-Monitor, “The incidents in the camp marked the reignition of a family feud from months ago after the security forces failed to resolve it. Some security forces dressed in civilian clothes participated in the clash.”

Tirawi said, “Some want to stir disputes in the camps, but in whose favor? The party that wants to spark an internal dispute is the same one holding the key to decisions in the Palestinian security apparatus.”

He added, “The statements of some officials regarding the camp transformation into a base for the Democratic Reform Current aim … to distract the national arena from the conflict with Israel.”

Taysir Nasrallah, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council in the Balata camp, told Al-Monitor that the camps in the West Bank are tense for many reasons, including rising poverty levels, unemployment and social problems that have led to an increase in the weapons trade. They require high-level intervention, he said.

Nasrallah denied any link between the Amari and Balata incidents and said the camps are not bases for Dahlan. 

He added that Dahlan is suspected of having played a role in the normalization deal between Israel and the UAE. "Dahlan’s current is weak, if it even exists, and it does not have a public base," he said, explaining that any support in the camps is a minority position.

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