PA police 88.
(photo credit: )
The Palestinian Authority capped a largely disastrous first month of rule in the Gaza Strip with an announcement late Saturday night that it prevented 17 terrorist attacks and confiscated a significant amount of weapons.
Israel's military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip on September 12 was met with the looting of evacuated settlements, the temporary disintegration of the Egypt-Gaza border and weeks of sometimes violent skirmishes between the PA and Hamas.
The PA Interior Ministry, which controls the various Palestinian security branches, issued the security report, highlighting the confiscation of 75 mines and 15 Kassam rockets, which it said were to be used against Israel. PA security forces around the border town of Rafah also blocked up two smuggling tunnels and prevented seven smuggling attempts from the Egyptian side.
The announcement came a day before two drive-by shootings in the West Bank left three Israelis dead and at least four wounded.
The PA, said a source close to Interior Minister Nasser Yousef, was experimenting with a new policy.
"We are striking at the armed groups and then pulling back to examine the results," he said. The source said decisions were being made on a daily basis, and that "this is not a continuing action." Both Yousef and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have demanded that gunmen cease carrying their weapons in public, but have not asked the groups to disarm.
The PA has pleaded impotency to fight a protracted battle against the various armed groups in the Gaza Strip - including rogue gangs aligned with the ruling Fatah faction, like the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. A debilitating dearth of weapons and ammunition coupled with a desire to resolve the internal strife peacefully has hindered those Palestinian officials who favor armed action.
"If we had the ability to crack down, we would," said the source.
Nasser Yousef has said that the PA would not enter Palestinian parliamentary elections, slated for January 25, with gunmen roaming the streets unchecked.
Col. Jamal Kayed, commander of the PA's National Security Force in the southern half of the Gaza Strip, said his men thwarted a Kassam attack Saturday night. "Last week we stopped two other launchings and found explosive material," he said, adding that often the culprits "run away and escape." The 4,300 men subordinate to Kayed are to control outlying parts of Khan Yunis and the border areas with Israel.
Some PA officers in the field continue to complain of dwindling supplies. Col. Kayed said his men were doing what they can to prevent attacks near the Green Line, but they are chronically short of supplies. "My men can do the job if given the proper equipment," vowed Kayed.
Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence officials allege that Hamas especially is investing a large percentage of its resources in smuggling weapons into Gaza and the West Bank when possible.
With its survival arguably at stake, the PA is not making hollow threats. Last week, Jamal Shubaki, Chairman of the Higher Commission for Local Elections, and a PLC member told The Jerusalem Post that he had canceled Gaza's municipal elections for just that reason.
In the West Bank, the PA has arrested a number of drug dealers in the Hebron area Palestinian security sources say are linked with Hamas.
IDF intelligence has underplayed the PA's success of late in battling the various Palestinian terrorist groups including Hamas. A senior intelligence official told the Post last week that, "The PA is afraid of Hamas but it is waging a successful delegitimization campaign against it," sniping at the group in the media, blaming it for its missteps and the rising Palestinian lawlessness are just a few of the ways.
Dr. Salah Abdel Shaffi, a Gaza-based analyst, observed that Saturday's announcement "is a continuation of a new trend that started a month ago where security forces are more aggressive in their media policy." The PA's PR campaign is also aimed at facilitating Abbas's visit to Washington later this month.