'PA forces could trigger dustups'

Defense officials warn against security ops outside Area A.

PA security forces 311 (photo credit: AP)
PA security forces 311
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority security operations which deviate from PA-controlled Area A could generate clashes with IDF soldiers and armed settlers and lead to escalation in the West Bank, senior defense officials warned on Wednesday.
The admonition came as the army opened an investigation into an incident that started on Monday night, when PA security officers from Jericho pursued a Hamas man into territory under Israeli control in the Jordan Valley and, after a firefight, captured him.
Under Israel’s agreements with the PLO, PA security forces are allowed to operate in Area A – which is under complete Palestinian control. In rare cases and after receiving special approval from the IDF, they are sometimes allowed to operate also in Area B, where the PA has authority over civilian matters and Israel over security. Under no circumstances are the PA forces supposed to operate in Area C, which is under complete Israeli civilian and military control.
The incident in question began on Monday night in a village near Jericho, when PA forces tried to arrest a Hamas operative in the city. The Hamas man fled and ended up near Moshav Petzael, an Israeli settlement in the Jordan Valley. Settlers called the IDF after they heard gunfire.
The army said that the PA operation in Jericho had been coordinated with it, but that the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria was investigating the incident to prevent similar operations in Area C in the future.
In the past, there have been instances of PA security forces venturing into areas under Israeli security control without permission. Last August, for example, a Palestinian security officer was spotted near a junction north of the Efrat settlement just off Route 60, the highway connecting Jerusalem and Gush Etzion.
The PA policeman, who was from Bethlehem, told IDF officers that he had ventured out to the road, which had recently been opened to Palestinian traffic, to inspect a car accident. He was detained by IDF troops from the Etzion Brigade, and his weapon was confiscated. He was released several hours later.
The IDF’s concern is primarily due to the misunderstandings that can be caused by having armed Palestinians walking around in areas that are off-limits to them.
“This can lead to misunderstandings and violent clashes between the sides,” one IDF officer explained.
The army believes that the PA is testing it by sending forces to areaswhere they are not supposed to operate. One official said the move wasin line with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to declare statehoodby the summer of 2011.
“This way they are showing the Palestinian people that they are incontrol of the entire territory and have authority everywhere,” theofficial explained.
Five battalions of 500 Palestinian soldiers each, trained by USsecurity coordinator Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in Jordan, have alreadydeployed throughout the West Bank alongside seven regional battalions.
By 2011, another five battalions will have undergone training. Fayyad’splan is to then dismantle the regional battalions and expand theDayton-trained battalions to close to 1,000 soldiers each, bringing thetotal number of PA soldiers to around 10,000. With the police and thePresidential Guard, the number of armed PA security officers would cometo around 20,000.