In a show of confidence in the Palestinian Authority, the IDF Central Command has decided to allow Palestinian security forces to operate 24 hours a day in certain West Bank cities without the need for prior Israeli permission, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Until now, for example, Palestinian security forces that wanted to operate at night inside Tulkarm and Kalkilya were required to ask the local IDF regional commander for permission. Several months ago, the regional brigade commander changed the procedure, granting the Palestinians the authority to operate in the cities every night, unless told otherwise.
IDF sources said that the situation was similar in Bethlehem, Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank. The PA forces operate strictly against Hamas, but not against other terror groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
"Under the new procedures they can now operate all day and night unless we tell them that they have to stop," explained a senior IDF officer.
The thinking behind the decision to basically give the Palestinian forces a carte blanche to operate in Area A cities is to enable the PA to break away from an image that it operate on Israel's behalf and per its request.
In June, in the greatest demonstration of their efficacy, the PA forces trained in Jordan under the direction of US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton eliminated a Hamas terror cell in Kalkilya. Two Hamas operatives and a PA security officer were killed.
Since then the forces have continued to crack down on Hamas, while at the same time enforcing law and order in the West Bank. "Almost every day they arrest car thieves and drug dealers," the officer said.
Last month the Central Command granted the PA permission to open a police station in the village of Azun, off Highway 55 near Tulkarm and Kedumim. This came after some 50 stoning attacks per month from within the village.
"After a month that the PA force is there, we have only had two stoning attacks," the officer said.
IDF regional commanders meet with their Palestinian counterparts on a monthly basis but lower-level commanders speak almost daily via the Civil Administration.