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11.23.2014 | 1 Kislev, 5775
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YAAKOV KATZ \
PA arrests 150 in W. Bank's largest-ever crackdown
Fatah's ZAKARIA ZUBEIDI 370.
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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