By Staff, Agencies Nizar Banat, a leading Palestinian activist and critic of the Palestinian Authority [PA], has died after a raid by PA security forces on his home in Dura in the al-Khalil area early on Thursday. In a statement, the Governor of al-Khalil Jibreen al-Bakri claimed "during the arrest his health deteriorated," however Banat's family said he had been subjected to a beating while being detained.
The arrest took place as the PA stepped up its security crackdown on political opponents and social media users in the occupied West Bank.
Banat was well known for his criticism of the PA leadership and had been arrested several times in the past by Palestinian Authority security forces.
The Middle East Eye cited Muhannad Karajah, from Lawyers for Justice, as saying that Banat had phoned him on Wednesday and told him that he was being subjected to threats by the PA's intelligence service, who had demanded that he stop his criticism of the authority.
Banat has for months been posting videos on Facebook on which he lambasted PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior PA and Fatah officials.
Ammar, a cousin of Banat and a spokesman for the family, told MEE that about 25 officers and a member of the Preventive Security and General Intelligence, stormed the house around 3.30am in the morning after detonating its doors.
He said the officers stormed the room in which Nizar was sleeping and immediately began to attack him by spraying him with gas in his mouth and nose.
The cousin said they beat Banat severely with iron and wooden batons.
He added that Nizar had been in a fainting state, so they dragged him, stripped him of his clothes, and transported him away in military vehicles.
The death has been met with anger on the streets and criticism from human rights organizations and Palestinian factions who have called for an independent investigation.
In a statement, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] held the PA responsible for Banat's death.
"The arrest and then the assassination of Nizar again raises questions on the nature of the role and function of the PA and its security services, and its violation of the democratic rights of citizens through the policy of silence, prosecution, arrest and murder," said the PFLP Additionally, Sami Abu Zuhri, a member of Hamas' political bureau, said: "We consider that [PA] Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh bears the primary responsibility for the murder of activist and parliamentary candidate Nizar Banat, and we call for the killers to be prosecuted."