Who was behind plot to assassinate Fatah leaders?

Jamal Tirawi, a spokesman for Fatah’s parliamentary faction and a local leader of the Fatah-linked armed group the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, gives a press conference in Nablus, West Bank, November 2005

RAMALLAH, West Bank — According to media outlets such as Donia al-Watan and France 24, Palestinian security sources announced on condition of anonymity that Palestinian security forces arrested a cell in the West Bank city of Nablus, without specifying the date. The cell was planning to assassinate three Fatah leaders in the city: member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Jamal Tirawi, secretary-general of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council Amin Maqboul and member of the executive committee of the PLO Ghassan Shakaa.

Although the arrest of the cell was revealed in the media, the security apparatus is still reserved about sharing details in regard to the cell, its members and its plans due to the ongoing investigations. Spokesperson for the security apparatus Adnan al-Damiri told Al-Monitor, “What has been circulated in the media about the cell was not [officially] issued by the security institution and investigations are still ongoing. We cannot comment at the moment.”

Nablus Gov. Akram Rajoub reconfirmed the security apparatus’ stance and told Al-Monitor, “The investigations are ongoing on all levels and revealing the details will only harm the investigation process and its desired results. There are several parties linked to the cell that we must uncover, and we must analyze the investigation data to avoid any mistakes.”

Rajoub said, “Leaking the arrest of the cell to the media is not part of the work strategy of the security institution. The news was leaked by people who have personal agendas and interests. As a result, the security institution is facing a dangerous security leak that might be even more dangerous than the assassinations themselves.”

While Rajoub refused to implicate certain parties in the cells due to the ongoing investigations, he did not rule out this possibility. He said, “We will announce the details of the investigation after it is complete. But I do not think this cell was the making of an individual and a spontaneous initiative.”

Armed men had fired at Shakaa’s house in Nablus on July 1. No injuries were reported, and the general intelligence announced July 24 the arrest of the perpetrators who admitted to committing the crime, according to the Palestinian intelligence that did not give any further details about them.

Shakaa, Tirawi and Maqboul are prominent Fatah figures in Nablus, whose differences outweigh their similarities. Maqboul is close to President Mahmoud Abbas and he is the secretary-general of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council; Shakaa had challenged Fatah in 2012 when he insisted on nominating himself for the Nablus municipal elections, despite the party refusing the nomination. Fatah’s Anti-Delinquency Committee accused Tirawi, who hails from the Balata refugee camp, of delinquency and of being a supporter of dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. Thus, it seems the arrest of the cell is a complicated matter and more details are needed before unveiling the issue further.

Tirawi, who was among those targeted in the assassination plot, told Al-Monitor, “The cell that was arrested consists of four people — three of whom are part of the security apparatus and the fourth is a civilian. One of the officers is a major and the other is a brigadier general. Three were arrested, while the cell leader who is a major is still at large, and search operations to find him are ongoing.”

Tirawi added, “The general intelligence arrested the cell and investigated with its members. Then, they [the members] were referred to the general joint security committee formed of all security institutions [which include the police, the intelligence and the preventive security], and they were transferred to the military intelligence prison in Jericho.”

Regarding the motives of the cell and whether a certain mastermind party was supporting it, Tirawi said, “The fourth culprit who is still at large can answer these questions, since he spearheaded the cell.” He added, “If he is arrested, the security apparatus will have all the information and we will know then who the mastermind of the cell is. The members who were arrested said they had received orders from the cell leader who ran away.”

The presence of the cell was revealed amid major security tension in Nablus ongoing since Aug. 18 with the onset of a security campaign in the city. Sporadic armed clashes took place between the security officers and armed men in the old town. Five people were killed, mainly Fatah leader Ahmed Abu al-Ezz Halawa on Aug. 23, and a wave of protests and clashes between the citizens and the security forces followed.

Rajoub said, “Regardless of the identity of the cell members — be they security officers or not — this is a complicated and thorny issue that necessitates accuracy and caution in issuing statements.” He added, “Unveiling the cell proves that civil peace and stability are targeted in Palestinian society, but this does not necessarily mean that the cell is connected to the past events in Nablus.”

He added, “Revealing the cell identity and the outcome of the security institution’s investigations will entrench the security activity and enhance general stability.”

Uncovering a cell that planned to execute assassinations has posed many questions about the dimensions and repercussions on the Palestinian arena. Tirawi said that “using the logic of blood and assassination to solve domestic issues is dangerous and entrenches the crises and conflicts within Fatah, especially since those targeted in the assassination are Fatah leaders.”

Tirawi added, “If the scheme had succeeded, it would have been a national catastrophe, because each one of the targeted individuals has their national, political and organizational influence, and would have thrown society in a long-lasting bloodbath.”

Maqboul told Al-Monitor, “Some people are trying to stir tension in Palestinian cities, mess with civil peace and distract the Palestinian Authority with domestic issues, thus affecting its follow-up of national and political issues and its confrontation with Israel.”

Maqboul asserted that the acts targeting civil peace — either through assassinations or other steps — aim at stirring strife in the Palestinian arena, and nobody will benefit from this except Israel and its agents.

Leaking the arrest of a cell that planned political assassinations against Fatah leaders will only increase the internal tensions in the West Bank. It is a worrying indicator of the Palestinian future in case of a political or security vacuum, even if the cell seems unrelated to the escalating tensions resulting from the internal Fatah rift between the movement’s leader and dismissed leader Dahlan and their supporters. These tensions reached their peak when a meeting held by some Fatah members in Amari camp near Ramallah Oct. 26 was dispersed, resulting in Abbas dismissing leader Jihad Tummaleh. Seventeen other names of Fatah leaders were submitted to Abbas for dismissal.

(Source / 02.11.2016)


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