Armed clashes have taken place between Palestinian Authority security forces and a group of gunmen in the Balata refugee camp east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The gunmen are believed to be members of Fatah.
According to local sources in Balata, the violence erupted around midnight on Thursday after a security force affiliated to the Palestinian Authority attempted to carry out a number of arrests in the camp.
The sources added that the gunmen belonging to Fatah and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade opened fire on Palestinian security officers as they were trying to break into the camp from several directions. Fighting took place in a number of lanes and alleyways inside Balata.
The clashes came shortly after the conclusion of a meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of the security services in Ramallah. Abbas apparently confirmed his rejection of any armed groups in the occupied Palestinian territories, on the grounds that "there is no legitimacy to any weapons but those of the Palestinian security services whose job is to maintain the security and the safety of the citizens".
In Balata camp itself, Fatah members circulated a signed statement condemning the PA's security services and claiming that they have "deviated from the direction of those who have been fighting throughout the years of the intifada".
The statement accused the PA's actions of being part of the "the wheel of treason being moved by American schemes and hands". Why, the signatories asked, do the security services tackle the freedom fighters and demonstrate good faith towards the Israeli occupation?