What Ibrahim al-Nabulsi’s Killing Reveals About the West Bank

NABLUS, West Bank – Ibrahim al-Nabulsi’s short life and bloody death encapsulate why both Palestinians and Israelis fear that an increased riot in the occupied West Bank won’t come soon. end.

Brother al-Nabulsi, 18, is the son of a senior intelligence officer of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank in close coordination with Israel.

But the younger al-Nabulsi took a different path, taking up arms against Israel instead of working with it silently. Last month, the young gunman was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers, one of more than 80 Palestinians, as well as two Israeli army and police officers, killed in the West Bank this year.

His father, Colonel Alaa al-Nabulsi, 53, said: “As a father, it is difficult for me to tell him not to get involved in this. Is it okay to live a humiliating life? “

The death of young al-Nabulsi, a prominent figure in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, comes amid the deadliest violence in the territory since 2015.

For the Palestinians, the escalation is the result of increase in Israeli raids in the West Bank since March, resulting in the arrest of more than 1,500 Palestinians – and in general, an inevitable result of professional effort since the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s. Israelis say military action is a necessary response to a series of Arab attacks killed 19 Israelis and foreigners this spring.

However, both Palestinian and Israeli analysts agree that the escalation also reflects changes and tensions in Palestinian society. The increasingly authoritarian behavior of the Palestinian leadership, coupled with their inability to dislodge the Israeli occupation and further the state cause, has alienated and frustrated many young Palestinians – and leading to friction within the leadership itself.

Those tensions are evident in separation and division in Fatahsecular party that controls the Palestinian Authority – as well as in increasingly unpopular of the heads of the competent authorities. That has made the government more vigilant in intervening against Palestinian militants like young al-Nabulsi, giving them more time to strike Israeli targets. And it has led to the formation of new coalitions of fighters operating independently of the traditional Palestinian chains of command.

At the base of all those tensions is the growing conflict between the Palestinian leaders as they jump in to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, the 87-year-old president of the administration.

For years, analysts have predicted that Abbas’ death or departure could herald a new wave of violence, not only against Israelis but also among Palestinians as they vie for power. .

A senior Israeli military official, who declined to be named, citing army protocol, said he believed such unrest had begun, even while Mr.

Some of these dynamics are illustrated by the life of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, who was born into a family of Fatah members. His father spent his career helping to crack down on outlaws like his son would later become. As part of that work, Colonel al-Nabulsi .’s intelligence service regular coordination with Israeli partners – an uncommon arrangement that the leaders of the authority have however considered as a necessary means maintain Israel’s trust, end the occupation, and secure the state’s future status.

Colonel al-Nabulsi is increasingly losing faith in that approach, Col al-Nabulsi said. The occupation persists and the Palestinian Authority looks more and more like an arm of the Israeli security forces, rather than a state in wait.

Colonel al-Nabulsi said that at the age of 15, Ibrahim al-Nabulsi joined a network of fighters to capture Israel. An armed group with links to Fatah later claimed him as their own, but the reality is more complicated.

This summer, al-Nabulsi helped form a separate armed group, which is based in the Old City of Nablus, and has been implicated in a surge in local violence. The number of shootings at Israeli military checkpoints near the city – some led by Mr. al-Nabulsi – has more than doubled since last year, according to Israeli military figures.

Named group Arin al-Asoud, or Den of the Lions. In interviews this month, the militants said the group included people from Fatah families, such as Mr al-Nabulsi – but also people with links to Palestinian jihad, the group the wing of Gaza in August fought. a short conflict with Israel. Traditionally an opponent of secular Fatah, jihad has become more appealing to some dissidents because of its opposition to the Palestinian Authority, according to analysts.

The alliance of secular and Muslim young people reflects Fatah’s waning grip on the streets of Palestine. A similar move also exists in Jenin, another city on the north West Bank, where militants said in an interview that young people who support Fatah have joined forces with militants from Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip.

Tayseer Nasrallah, a veteran Fatah leader in Nablus who supports Mr. Abbas, said young Palestinians “no longer wait for the decision of their leaders”. “We told them that Oslo would help us get a state, reduce settlements, take back Jerusalem,” he said. “But the settlements increased. Jerusalem is besieged. Why do they listen to us? “

Mr. al-Nabulsi’s rise also reflects the Palestinian Authority’s growing reluctance to intervene against militants like him.

In 2018, the authorities detained al-Nabulsi for several months.

Four years later, authorities would not arrest him again, even after Israeli officials released information about his activities, the senior Israeli military official said.

Instead, al-Nabulsi and his team were able to establish a quasi-autonomous region in part of the Old City of Nablus, a maze of narrow limestone alleys and archways, as observed by two reporters for The New York Times in a recent issue. access times.

The authorities have long struggled to maintain full control over parts of Nablus, including the Old City. But today, its volatility in the quarter appears to be worse than ever.

On a recent weekend, Times reporters saw militants from al-Nabulsi’s group patrolling the alleys of the Old City, carrying rifles and pledging to fire on police forces. government if the force tries to enter the neighborhood. Police officers stayed a few blocks from the area, even as about 60 masked militants with rifles staged a noisy protest on a deserted street.

When asked why the Palestinian police avoid confronting the militants in the Old City, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said that the authorities do not want to increase tensions unreasonably for the sake of promoting the wars. election translation of Israeli politicians.

“One funeral creates another,” he said in a brief phone interview.

But analysts say the administration is wary of intervening against gunmen with family ties to Fatah because it risks exacerbating the organization’s internal crisis.

“These are manifestations of the deep problems within Fatah,” said Ibrahim Dalalsha, head of the Horizon Center, a political research firm on the West Coast.

“If they are against it, they are against their own supporters,” Mr. Dalalsha said. And that, he added, “could lead to even broader confrontations not only with the gunmen, but also with their families.”

Many analysts say Islamic Jihad and Hamas are helping fund groups like al-Nabulsi’s.

But some also say the group is backed or even armed by dissident factions within Fatah who are seeking to build a private militia in the face of the post-Abbass power vacuum. .

Mohammad al-Emsame, a senior member of a long-standing armed group that has dominated a separate neighborhood in southern Nablus, said: “It is now a race to get the most weapons, to they can become the strongest after Abu Mazen dies. referring to Mr. Abbas by a nickname.

In interviews with The Times, some of Fatah’s dissident leaders denied knowing of such a scheme. But a powerful Fatah leader in Nablus known for his criticism of Abbas, Jamal Tirawi, said that Fatah members may have donated a small amount of money to the fighters after attending the Fourth Prayer. Six at mosques in the Old City.

“You see a donation box and you give 100 shekels,” Mr. Tirawi said. “Little by little, that number increases.”

Witnesses said that, with powers reluctant to participate, elite Israeli soldiers raided the Old City of Nablus in the early morning hours of August 9, some of them disguised as house painters. Witnesses declined to give their names, citing fear of reprisals.

After an hour of stalemate, soldiers broke into the limestone safe house where al-Nabulsi was hiding, entered with a shoulder-fired missile and killed him.

But while it quells a threat to Israel, the young fighter’s killing could inspire others in the future.

Today, the dilapidated safehouse has become a shrine to al-Nabulsi. Next to the wreckage, militants made a makeshift memorial from what they say was al-Nabulsi’s last meal – a bag of bread, two packets of chocolate and a bottle of banana juice and Strawberries are now moldy on the surface. .

On a recent weekend, a large number of young Palestinians paid their respects, posing for selfies next to moldy food and a towel stained with blood that residents thought was al-Nabulsi’s blood. Outside, teenage fighters roamed the alleys with their guns, pictures of Mr. al-Nabulsi hanging from their necks.

One said he hoped he would be next.

“Let them come,” he said of the Israeli soldiers. “We want them to come.”

Rami Nazzal Contribution reports from Nablus, West Coast, and Hiba Yazbek from Jerusalem.

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