More than a hundred protesters took the streets of Ramallah on Monday evening to condemn security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, after IDF soldiers killed 31-year-old Basel al-Araj.Araj had been pursued by the PA and Israeli security forces over the past year for his alleged involvement in planning terrorist attacks.“We will talk about what happened. Security cooperation is shameful. Security cooperation is shameful,” the protesters yelled, clapping their hands together, as they approached Ramallah’s central al-Manara square.
Protests critical of the PA’s security policy are a rare sight in the de facto Palestinian political capital, where Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas works and resides.“Why [should we have] security cooperation when we are under the bullet of the [Israeli] army?” the protesters asked, holding posters with pictures of Araj.Araj was arrested by the PA in April 2016 after he and two other Palestinian fled to the hills outside of Ramallah. According to Palestinian security services, the three Palestinian were armed with a gun and hand grenades.Days later, Abbas, speaking to German daily Der Spiegel, cited Araj’s arrest in as an example of the success of the security cooperation between the PA and Israel. The Palestinian Authority incarcerated Araj for more than five months under administrative detention until a Palestinian court ordered that he be freed in September.Immediately after his release, Araj went into hiding, until he was found by Israeli security forces found on Monday in an apartment in Ramallah’s sister city, El-Bireh.“There needs to be a response to the killing of Araj and others, including an end to security cooperation and all other forms of cooperation with the Israeli occupation,” said Isam Bakr, chairman of a popular committee in Ramallah, who participated in Monday’s protest.A 2015 poll found that 64% of Palestinians support the discontinuation of security cooperation with Israel.Hamas pointed a finger at security coordination on Monday as bearing responsibility for Araj’s death.“What happened today is a reminder of the ugliness of the policies of security cooperation and pursuing the resistance, which the PA follows,” Hamas said in an official statement on its Twitter account.The PA and Israel closely coordinated security between the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in the mid-1990s and 2000, at a time when Israeli and PA security personnel carried out joint patrols. With the break out of the second intifada, however, security cooperation came to a halt, until Abbas’s election in 2005.Security cooperation is currently ongoing, as Israeli and Palestinian security personnel coordinate efforts to foil attacks targeting Israel and the PA, as well as to deal with a variety of other issues.
IDF and Border Police counter-terrorism raid in Ramallah, West Bank overnight Sunday, killing Basil Al-Araj (Credit: Israel Police)