IDF: 'PA police venturing beyond their areas'

Despite its irritation, the army praises the Palestinian forces for cracking down on terrorism.

PA police weapons 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
PA police weapons 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
With the growing number of US-trained Palestinian security officers deployed in the West Bank, the IDF is facing the problem of policemen venturing into areas under Israeli security control without permission. Two weeks ago, for example, a Palestinian Authority security officer was spotted near a junction north of the Efrat settlement just off Road 60, the main highway connecting Jerusalem and the Gush Etzion bloc. The policeman, who is based in Bethlehem, told IDF officers that he ventured out to the road, which was recently opened to Palestinian traffic, to inspect a car accident. He was detained by soldiers from the IDF's Etzion Brigade, his weapon was confiscated and he was released only several hours later. Since 2008, more than 2,100 PA security officers have deployed in the West Bank to patrol seven different cities. These officers have undergone training in Jordan as part of an innovative program led by US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton to deploy Western-trained security forces in the West Bank in an effort to curb Hamas's power. Overall, the forces have been successful in cracking down on Hamas as well as other terrorist groups in the West Bank, a senior officer in the IDF Central Command said on Thursday. "The problem is that now that they are doing a good job they have a lot of self-confidence and think they can venture into areas they are not allowed into," the officer explained. Under the agreement with the Palestinians, the security personnel are allowed in the West Bank's Area A, which is controlled completely by the PA. Earlier this year, the IDF allowed the Palestinians to establish a number of small police stations in towns in Area B, which is under Israeli security control but is administered by the PA. Area C, where the security officer was caught two weeks ago, is under complete Israeli control. The IDF's concern is primarily due to the potential misunderstandings that can be caused by having armed Palestinians walking around in areas that are off-limits. Earlier this year, two Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian security officer were wounded during a shootout in Kalkilya. The soldiers were operating undercover and neither side properly identified the another. Another tactic that the PA has begun using to weaken Hamas in the West Bank is to prevent the holding of municipal elections in cities and towns that are run by Hamas. By deciding not to hold elections, PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad is able to appoint an official of his choosing to the post. "This is an internal PA process that is having an effect on Hamas," the senior officer said.