Gunmen attack home of candidate who called on EU to halt funding to PA

In the first incident of its kind since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to postpone the elections, unidentified gunmen attacked the house of a Palestinian candidate who urged the European Union to halt financial aid to the PA.Palestinian political activists expressed fear that the attack could be part of an attempt by the PA leadership to silence critics in the aftermath of the postponement.They pointed out that the PA has instructed its supporters to stage rallies in parts of the West Bank in support of Abbas and his decision to delay the elections.The attack on the home of Nizar Banat, a prominent political activist and candidate on the Freedom and Dignity electoral list for the Palestinian parliamentary elections, which were set for May 22, took place on Saturday night in the town of Dura near Hebron.Banat, an outspoken critic of Abbas, said he was not at home when the gunmen attacked with live ammunition and stun grenades. His wife and three children, who were in the house, were not hurt, he said.Banat hinted that “thugs” belonging to Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction were behind the attack and that they were escorted by PA security officers, he claimed.“They opened fire at my home, tossed stun grenades and broke the doors,” Banat said. “I want to know who carried out this cowardly attack.”

Banat said he would not be intimidated or stopped from voicing his criticism of Abbas and highlighting corruption in the PA.The attack came after the Freedom and Dignity list published a statement on Friday night in which it said that it had decided to ask EU courts, especially the EU Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, to order an immediate cessation of financial aid to the PA and launch an investigation into “the squandering of European tax-payer money.”The statement was signed by Banat and another candidate from his list, Dr. Amjad Shehab.The unprecedented appeal to the EU drew strong condemnations from senior PA and Fatah officials. They accused Banat of “crossing a red line” by appealing to foreign parties to suspend financial aid to the PA.A senior PA security official said that an investigation had been launched into the incident and denied that members of the Palestinian security forces were involved in the shooting.In recent months, Banat has been posting videos on Facebook in which he launched scathing attacks on Abbas and senior PA and Fatah officialsHe also participated in a demonstration in Ramallah last week in protest at Abbas’s decision to delay the parliamentary and presidential elections.On Sunday, Banat said in a Facebook post that he and his list had decided to call for halting financial aid to the PA “because the European Union funds despicable gangs headed by Mahmoud Abbas.”He also held the PA security forces responsible for “the frightening state of security anarchy in the West Bank.”Banat said the attack on his home came shortly after he received a phone call from his lawyer informing him that he had been summoned for interrogation by the PA prosecutor-general’s office over his appeal to the EU.The European Union Delegation to the Palestinians said that it “followed with concern last night’s attack on activist Nizar Banat’s house.”“Violence against politicians and human rights defenders is unacceptable,” the EU mission said on Twitter. “The PA has to ensure respect for the freedom of expression and protection of human rights activists.”Several Palestinian factions and human rights groups also expressed concern at the incident, dubbing it a dangerous assault on public freedoms.Hamas and exiled Fatah operative Mohammed Dahlan’s supporters denounced the attack as a “crime” and blamed PA security forces.

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