Israeli forces on Tuesday detained eight Palestinians, at least one of whom a minor, as clashes erupted between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers outside the Ofer detention center in the central occupied West Bank’s Ramallah district a day following the killing of well-known activist Basel al-Araj by Israeli forces.
Clashes erupted between the youth, mostly students from the nearby Birzeit University, who threw stones at Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters.
The Birzeit students had organized a sit-in demonstration inside the university’s campus condemning the “assassination” of al-Araj who was killed by Israeli forces in Ramallah on Monday. After the sit-in, the protesters headed towards the Ofer detention center, where clashes then erupted.
According to witnesses, Israeli soldiers detained “seven youths and a child” before assaulting them and “brutally throwing them inside military jeeps and into the detention center.”
An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.
Al-Araj, 31, was killed by Israeli forces in a two-hour shootout in the early hours of Monday morning. A resident of the village of al-Walaja in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, the activist had been on the run from Israeli authorities since September, when he was released from Palestinian prison after being detained without charges or explanation for five months, during which he joined a hunger strike amid reports of torture and mistreatment.
Israeli police had accused al-Araj of being the “head of a terrorist cell that planned attacks against Israelis and security forces.”
After a months-long manhunt, Israeli forces surrounded a house in the outskirts of the Qaddura refugee camp, where al-Araj was staying, early on Monday, prompting an exchange of fire between al-Araj and the armed forces, in which the Palestinian was killed after running out of ammunition, according to witnesses and Israeli police.
However, some Palestinians have raised questions about the Israeli police narrative that it would have been possible for al-Araj to return fire, and have highlighted that the man — well known in his community as an intellectual and an activist — did not fit the typical profile of a gunman.
In a lengthy statement released on Monday, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) described al-Araj as a freedom fighter, intellectual, and theorist, who was “one of the most prominent young Palestinian strugglers” to resist the Israeli occupation, and who “worked to chronicle the history of Palestine and confront all attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
The group said the killing laid bare “an urgent need to confront all forms of security coordination, political arrests, and prosecutions” by the Palestinian Authority (PA), describing security coordination with Israel as “a betrayal” of the principles and values of Palestinian resistance.
The PA has been widely criticized for its security coordination with Israel through what critics have called a “revolving-door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.