The Palestinian Authority has issued a stiff warning to unruly gunmen in the West Bank, saying it will “cut off the hand of anyone who tries to tamper with the security and stability” of the Palestinians.
In a statement on Monday night, the PA Ministry of Interior, which is in charge of the Palestinian security forces, said it was determined to enforce law and order in all areas of the West Bank.
“The Ministry affirms its full commitment to implement the directives of President Mahmoud Abbas to work continuously to implement the rule of law and provide security and safety for our people in all places,” the statement read. “We warn anyone who seeks to harm the security of Palestine and its people.”
The warning came amid rising tension between the PA and some armed groups in the northern West Bank in the aftermath of the large-scale Israeli military operation in Jenin Refugee Camp earlier this month. The groups claim that the PA security forces have arrested several gunmen over the past few days as part of a larger campaign to end the phenomenon of “resistance” against Israel.
Palestinian Authority arrests 'outlaws'
The PA, however, said it arrested a number of “outlaws” who participated in an attack on a Palestinian police station near Jenin.
On the first day of the operation, PA security forces arrested two gunmen, Murad Malaisheh and Mohammed Barahmeh, as they were on their way from the village of Jaba’, near Jenin, to take part in the fighting against Israeli troops in Jenin Refugee Camp.
Malaisheh has been described as the commander of the Jaba’ Battalion, a local militia consisting of gunmen from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the ruling Fatah faction. The PA security forces also confiscated the rifles of the two men.
In response, several gunmen attacked the PA police station in Jaba’ with gunfire before setting it on fire. No one was hurt.
PA security forces have arrested a number of suspects in connection with the attack on the police station. They included Eid Hamamreh, Mu’men Fashafsheh, Ahmed Salatneh, and Emad Khalilyeh.
Jenin’s PA Governor Akram Rajoub described the suspects as “outlaws” and revealed that they belong to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Fatah.
“We affirm that when the [Palestinian] security forces arrest any Palestinian, they carry out their duty with all professionalism and responsibility,” Rajoub emphasized.
In response, the Jenin Battalion, whose members are affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, accused the PA of “chasing and arresting resistance fighters” and denounced the move as “shameful.”
The group hinted that the PA crackdown was being carried out in coordination with Israel. “We’re not demanding that the [Palestinian] security forces to fight [against Israel] on our behalf, but they should not be stabbing us with the knife of political arrests,” the Jenin Battalion said.
The group claimed that it had agreed to the visit of Mahmoud Abbas to Jenin Refugee Camp on July 12 after it received promises that Malaisheh and Barahmeh, who were arrested at the beginning of the Israeli military operation, would be released. It also called on Palestinians to take to the streets to protest the arrests.
Demonstrations in the Jenin Refugee Camp
After the call, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Jenin Refugee Camp and other parts of the West Bank to demonstrate against the arrest of the gunmen by the Palestinian security forces. Similar protests took part in some areas of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the “political arrests” and calling for the immediate release of the detainees.
Fatah officials and gunmen participated in the protests. Jamal Hawil, member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, praised the members of the Jenin Battalion as “heroes” and said he was proud of his faction’s close relations with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Hawil added that the Jenin Battalion gunmen were not seeking jobs with the PA, but only to “fight for the sake of Palestine.”
“My message to all the resistance fighters, is that we kiss your hands, legs and heads,” the Fatah official said. “We don’t want to see anyone who’s related to the resistance in [Palestinian] prison. I appeal to the Palestinian security forces to release all the political detainees.”
Khader Habib, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip, said the arrest of the gunmen shows that the PA is continuing to conduct security coordination with Israel. “We urge the Palestinian Authority security forces to return to the people and support our just cause,” Habib added.