The last two days have seen attacks by Palestinians against their own government and police, underscoring the weak hand that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is holding.
Palestinian gunmen went on a rampage in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, shooting at the office of the Palestinian Authority’s president and setting several restaurants and shops on fire, security officials said.
The identities of the gunmen were unclear, but several reports indicated they were Palestinian security officers and militants affiliated with the Fatah political movement — the party of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas — who had been expelled from his headquarters.
A spokesman for the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, denied the men were members of the group, saying they were common thugs. Some government officials described the fracas as a street brawl among criminals.
In another example of the chaotic security situation in the West Bank, a group of angry Palestinians set fire to a Palestinian police checkpoint in the city of Tulkarm early Thursday after officers manning the post opened fire on a suspected stolen car, wounding at least one of its occupants.
Some Fatah activists said the clash in Ramallah erupted shortly before midnight when Palestinian security officials ordered about six militants and officials to turn in their weapons or leave the presidential compound, known as the muqata. The men, along with other militants wanted by Israel, had been given shelter there for several years by the former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, who died in November.
Abbas, who was elected in January, also granted refuge to the men, but he has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to make good on a pledge to begin disarming wanted militants.
Trouble should be expected when thugs are invited to the party.
As if a little gunplay in his direction wasn’t enough, Abbas now has to deal with an unexpected opening in his government after a key security official resigned in protest.
A Palestinian security chief has resigned, complaining to President Mahmoud Abbas that too little was being done to halt lawlessness in the West Bank and Gaza, officials say.
“I cannot work under these conditions,” Tawfik Tirawi, head of Palestinian Intelligence in the West Bank, wrote in a letter of resignation that he gave Abbas on Thursday after a meeting of security commanders at the president’s headquarters, the officials said.
Tirawi, the most senior security official to resign since Abbas’s election in January, quit a day after half a dozen gunmen from the ruling Fatah faction fired at the presidential Muqata compound in Ramallah and then rampaged through the city.
There was no immediate word if Abbas, who officials said gets along well with Tirawi, would ask him to reconsider.
The officials said Tirawi complained that other heads of Palestinian security organisations had not done enough to impose the rule of law Abbas had promised after taking over from the late Yasser Arafat.