An ongoing Palestinian Authority crackdown on crime and corruption in the West Bank, including the arrest of senior security officers, is being viewed in Israel as a milestone for the PA as it imposes its rule and authority throughout the territory.

The operation began several weeks ago but in recent days has gained traction with the arrest of a number of senior Palestinian security officers, some of whom were trained by the US in Jordan.

The crackdown began in mid-May following a shooting attack against the governor of Jenin, who died from a subsequent heart attack. The assault brought to light a longstanding feud between various criminal gangs, which operate in Jenin and Nablus and their surrounding areas.

A senior IDF officer from the Central Command said the operation was yielding impressive results and was viewed as a possible “turning point” for the PA as it tries to impose its authority throughout the West Bank.

Thus far, over 150 suspects have been arrested in Jenin and Nablus and are being held in the PA prison in Jericho. The Presidential Guard, a force loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, is leading the operations.

PA security forces spokesman Gen. Adnan Damiri said the operation would continue in order to dismantle criminal gangs in the West Bank. He said that security forces had confiscated over 100 weapons.

Many of those arrested are former members of Fatah’s Al- Aksa Martyrs Brigades as well as a number of rogue officers from the Palestinian National Security Forces, the PA’s main counter-terrorism arm trained by the US in Jordan. So far, eight NSF battalions of about 500 officers each have been deployed throughout the West Bank.

“This is important for us for security and it is mostly targeting the arms trade in the West Bank,” Damiri said.

He added that PA security forces were waiting to receive a new shipment of arms from Jordan, where some 4,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles are waiting to be transferred to the West Bank pending Israeli approval.

While the IDF is not actively involved in the operation, it is closely following developments and has granted the PA approval to deploy additional forces in Jenin and Nablus to carry out the arrests. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has also played an assisting role in locating several Palestinian fugitives who fled from the Jenin area and returning them to PA hands.

“This is not connected to us and so far we are watching with great interest at how the situation develops,” the officer said. “The operation has so far been very successful and is about reinstating the PA’s rule and authority in Palestinian cities.”

If effective, the operation could be used by the PA as a key argument in its bid for independence and statehood by demonstrating its ability to enforce law and order and clamp down on corruption within government and security ranks.

“We anticipate that the success of this operation will lead to more operations in the future,” an Israeli defense official said.

One prominent figure caught up in the sweep was Zakaria Zubeidi, known for his role in the second intifada as a member of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Jenin. Once a political power broker in Jenin and an ally of the PA, Zubeidi’s fall from grace has been dramatic. Arrested in May, he awaits charges alongside dozens of others in the Jericho prison.

Some officials are comparing the ongoing operation to a similar crackdown the PA led in 2009 against Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Kalkilya. Six people were killed in that operation, which was crucial in eliminating Hamas’s presence in the West Bank city.

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