Palestinian police forces have raided the home of Mohammed Dahlan, a former influential member of the Fatah party.
Witnesses in the Tirah neighbourhood of Ramallah, in the West Bank, said that a number of police officers surrounded Dahlan’s home on Thursday, before forcing their way in and arresting several of his bodyguards.
Reports indicate that police seized weapons, files, computers and two bulletproof cars from his house.
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.
Adnan al-Damiri, head of the Palestinian security forces, said the raid did not target Dahlan personally but was aimed at arresting militants who were understood to be hiding there.
"This morning a special unit of forces surrounded an area where Mohammed Dahlan is living. They did this because they knew there were some militants there. We have a legal order to enter the building and we found a lot of weapons."
The forces arrested around 10 of his bodyguards and confiscated 10,000 bullets and about 17 weapons, among them Kalashnikovs and pistols, and a car, Damiri said. Most of them were not registered.
Asked if there was a confrontation when they tried to enter Dahlan’s home, Damiri said no. "They told him they knew he had parliamentary immunity, and just wanted to collect the weapons and anything illegal.
Security officials would be investigating whether the bodyguards were registered with the security services, he said.
Last month, Dahlan was expelled from the ruling body of President Mahmoud 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 it 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 Hamas movement, Dahlan led a crackdown on the group in the 1990s, rounding up thousands of Islamic groups’ followers 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 movement 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.
(Agencies via Al Jazeera)