Scores of Palestinian police on Thursday raided the Ramallah home of ex-strongman Mohammed Dahlan who is under investigation for murder and corruption.
Witnesses in Ramallah’s Al-Tirah neighbourhood said a large number of police and security forces had surrounded his home at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) before forcing their way in and arresting around 10 of his bodyguards.
They were also seen removing weapons, files and computers from his house, as well as the former internal security minister’s two bullet-proof cars.
Dahlan, who continues to hold parliamentary immunity as an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was understood to have been locked in a room of his house while security forces conducted the searches.
A neighbour told AFP he heard security forces checking weapons in the house.
“I heard loud noises of weapons being checked and examined and I think they were weapons that were confiscated from Dahlan’s house and they were being checked to make sure they did not have bullets in them,” he said.
By 9:30 am (0630 GMT), the raid on the house was over, witnesses said, but police forces continued to surround the residence, controlling the flow of people into the house. Dahlan was apparently still inside the house.
Last month, Dahlan was expelled from the ruling body of president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party over allegations of financial corruption and murder.
The raid was launched a day after officials at the Fatah Central Committee (FCC) said they had decided to refer his case to the attorney general and the anti-corruption commission.
Also on Wednesday, a Fatah court rejected an appeal by Dahlan against his expulsion from the party.
In its ruling, the court found that a June 12 decision by the FCC to expel Dahlan from the party was justified, thereby overturning his appeal, court official Jamal Muheisen told AFP.
The FCC decision to expel him must now be approved by a two-thirds majority of the Fatah Revolutionary Council.
Last month, the FCC had also backed a decision to extend the mandate of the committee probing Dahlan’s affairs, allowing to look into the affairs of his friends and associates.
Dahlan, who once held the internal security portfolio and was head of Gaza’s powerful security forces, was formerly a leading figure within the secular Fatah movement which controls the Palestinian Authority.
Known for his fierce opposition to the Islamist Hamas movement, Dahlan led a merciless crackdown on the group in the 1990s, rounding up thousands of Islamists who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the newly-created Palestinian Authority.
But he fell from grace in June 2007 after the humiliating rout of his forces by Hamas fighters during days of fierce street battles in Gaza, which saw the Islamist faction expel Fatah forces from the territory.
Two years later, he returned to the political stage when he was elected to the FCC in August 2009.
But in December 2010, he was suspended from the committee which said it had set up a commission of inquiry to examine his finances and claims he tried to set up a personal militia.