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Palestinians reach truce to end West Bank clashes

Palestinian security forces clash with Palestinians following an arrest raid against local militants, in the West Bank city of Nablus Tuesday, September 20 2022 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Sam McNeil and Tia Goldenberg, Associated Press

Palestinian security forces and militants have agreed a truce to end violent clashes in a flashpoint West Bank city, local officials said.

The violence highlighted deep disenchantment with the internationally backed Palestinian leadership.

The deal to end the clashes eases tensions in the area, which on Tuesday was gripped by some of the fiercest antagonism directed at the Palestinian Authority in years.

But the truce failed to address the underlying and widespread opposition to Palestinian security co-ordination with Israel.

The clashes erupted after an arrest raid by Palestinian security against local militants.

The two sides exchanged fire as angry residents pelted an armoured jeep with objects and chased it away. One man was reported dead. The violence was reminiscent of the way Palestinians typically protest against Israeli troops.

Also on Wednesday, the body of a Palestinian man suspected of killing an 84-year-old Israeli woman was found hanged in central Tel Aviv, police said.

The unrest in Nablus reflected the deep unpopularity of the Palestinian leadership, which is widely seen – because of its security ties with Israel – as entrenching that country’s 55-year military occupation of the West Bank and its nearly three million residents. It has also been beset by corruption and has repeatedly delayed elections.

A semblance of normal life returned to Nablus, known as the West Bank’s business capital, on Wednesday.

Shoppers walked around the debris from the clashes as firefighters in cranes smashed broken glass out of shopfront windows bordering the city’s main Martyrs Square.

Palestinian security forces were deployed in armoured vehicles in the city centre.

A committee of Palestinian factions and other prominent figures said that under the truce, Palestinian security forces would cease to arrest suspects wanted by Israel in the city, unless they broke Palestinian law. Authorities would discuss the release of one of the men arrested in the recent raid. They would also release Palestinians detained in Tuesday’s clashes, unless they had damaged property or looted.

The Palestinian Authority maintains close security ties with Israel and the two often collaborate against Islamic militants in the West Bank.

Israel has encouraged the Palestinian Authority to do more to contain militancy, especially in the months following a spate of deadly attacks against Israelis in the spring, which killed 19 people.

Israel has instead intensified its own activity in the area, sending troops on nightly arrest incursions into villages, cities and towns, rounding up hundreds of Palestinians and killing some 90 during that time.

Israel says the vast majority of those killed were militants, while others have been local youths killed while throwing stones or firebombs at Israeli troops.

Some civilians have been killed in the violence, among them a veteran Al Jazeera journalist and a lawyer who inadvertently drove into a battle zone.

Israel says the raids are aimed at dismantling militant networks that threaten its citizens, and that it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians.

Palestinians say the incursions are meant to maintain Israel’s military rule over territories they want for a future state — a dream that appears as remote as ever, with no serious peace negotiations held in over a decade.

Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is now in its 55th year, with no sign of ending anytime soon.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, home to some 500,000 Israeli settlers, as the heartland of a future independent state.

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