Mystery surrounds the death of a top commander of the armed wing of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party who was killed on Saturday. Hatem Abu Rizek, a leading figure in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, died at the Balata refugee camp, near the West Bank city of Nablus.
Abu Rizek is said to have been an ally of Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan, a former senior adviser to Abbas and Gaza security chief, had a spectacular falling-out with the Palestinian president in 2011 and was forced into exile. Abbas has long been said to fear that Dahlan is plotting to depose and succeed him.
Some Palestinians have claimed that Abu Rizek was killed by Palestinian Authority security forces during armed clashes in the camp. PA security sources, however, said that Abu Rizek was killed when a hand grenade he was trying to throw at Palestinian officers exploded in his hands. “Abu Rizek was assassinated by an undercover Palestinian security unit, whose members infiltrated the camp late at night,” a source close to Dahlan told the Jerusalem Post.
Abu Razek’s death occurred amid rising tensions between PA security forces and Dahlan loyalists and reports that Abbas has ordered a massive crackdown. Last week, there were clashes in the Al Ama’ri refugee camp near Ramallah after PA forces attempted to arrest Fatah activists suspected of supporting Dahlan. Formed during the Second Intifada, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Israel. Abu Razek had previously spent time in prison in Israel for security offences.
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