Abu Rezak, the wanted local gunman, speaks to Reuters in Balata refugee camp near the West Bank city of Nablus November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini
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Hundreds of bullet holes scar the concrete walls, shop fronts and trash-strewn alleys of Balata, the occupied West Bank's largest refugee camp, the result of furious clashes earlier this week between Palestinian security forces and local gunmen.To an increasingly large extent, the future of Palestinian politics and the fate of Abbas, now 81 and in power for 11 years, are being forged in Balata, a heartland of both the first and second Palestinian uprisings against Israeli occupation.The camp of nearly 30,000 people, all refugees or descendants of refugees from the 1948 war that followed Israel's founding, is one of the most destitute places in the West Bank. During Arafat's time that frustration was directed squarely at Israel, with Balata's young men willing recruits to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah Party that Abbas now heads. Until Arafat's death in 2004, and in the early years of Abbas' rule, Fatah remained a tightly unified party, the overwhelming force in Palestinian politics. Abbas, on the other hand, has lost any sense of how the camps are feeling, he says.
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