Middle East

Palestinian suspect in police killings 'beaten to death'

Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces patrol the West Bank city of Nablus on 19 August 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces on patrol in Nablus

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it has launched an investigation after a man was apparently beaten to death in a jail in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Nablus Governor Akram Rajoub said Ahmed Halawa had been assaulted by Palestinian security forces at Junaid prison after shouting insults at them.

Mr Halawa was the alleged ringleader of an attack that led to the killing of two policemen in the area last week.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah described his death as an "irregular incident".

However, human rights activists have in the past been extremely critical of the treatment of prisoners in Palestinian jails. They say that torture is common, and committed with impunity.

'Lessons'

BBC West Bank correspondent Yolande Knell says there has been recent unrest in Nablus where, historically, large numbers of Palestinian militants were based.

Last week, during a search for weapons, two police officers and two armed men were killed in a series of clashes in the old city.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Palestinian forces displayed weapons and ammunition they said were recovered during raids

Mr Halawa was one of those blamed for the policemen's deaths and was arrested.

He was taken to the Junaid prison, where he was severely beaten, lost consciousness and later died, Mr Rajoub told the official Wafa news agency.

"We'll examine the incident and draw lessons from it," he added.

The Islamist group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and is a rival of the Fatah movement that dominates the PA, condemned the "execution" of a detainee.

The two factions are preparing for local elections across the Palestinian territories in October.

In a separate development on Tuesday, the Israeli military said it had dismantled a Palestinian weapons-making and smuggling network in the West Bank.

Troops found more than 20 arms-manufacturing machines at several sites in the Bethlehem and Hebron areas overnight, it added. Two traffickers were arrested.