PA cracks down on Tulkarm anarchy in effort to tighten grip

Latest operation seen as a show of force by security forces loyal to Abbas.

PA police 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
PA police 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In a move aimed at asserting its control over the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority launched a massive security operation in the Tulkarm area on Tuesday, the second of its kind in the past few weeks. The latest operation is seen as a show of force by security forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has long been accused of failing to take tough measures to end the state of lawlessness and anarchy in the West Bank. Gen. Shukri Abdel Hamid, commander of the PA's National Security Force in the Tulkarm district, said the crackdown aimed to send a message that the PA would no longer tolerate scenes of anarchy. He said his forces were determined to impose law and order in the area and collect illegal weapons. He added that some 250 policemen and security officers were taking part in the operation, which will continue until further notice. According to Abdel Hamid, the security operation is mainly aimed at arresting 210 Palestinians suspected of involvement in various crimes. He said strict instructions had been issued to the forces to avoid using violence during the operation and to refrain from opening fire unless the lives of the policemen were in immediate danger. Tulkarm residents reacted with mixed feelings to the security clampdown. "We hope this time they are serious," said Mahmoud Jallad, a local businessman. "The people here are sick and tired of the thugs who are roaming the streets and terrorizing us." Imad Abu Kaf, a high school teacher, said that while many residents welcomed the operation, only a few believed it would end the anarchy. "We've had similar measures in the past, and they didn't work," he complained. "We have lost faith in our security forces because they are also part of the problem, since some of their members are responsible for the anarchy." Col. Ibrahim Ramadan, commander of the PA's Preventative Security Service in the area, said the operation would also include several villages surrounding Tulkarm. "The operation will continue until it achieves all its goals," he said. "We have deployed the forces in many areas, and they will carry out their duties without fear." Sources in the city told The Jerusalem Post that almost all of those currently being pursued by the PA security forces were only suspected of involvement in criminal activities. They said the names of members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, did not appear on the list. A senior Palestinian security official confirmed that Fatah gunmen would not be targeted. But, he explained, "we have warned them that they would no longer be allowed to appear in public with their weapons. Only members of the Palestinian security forces would be permitted to carry weapons. I hope they got the message." This is the second operation of its kind in the past few weeks. The first was carried out in Nablus, where more than 300 policemen arrested dozens of suspects, including a number of Fatah gunmen who were allegedly involved in criminal activity. Alarmed by the ongoing state of anarchy, human rights activists revealed that at least 17 Palestinians were killed and 167 wounded in internal fighting in the Palestinian territories last month. They said about half of the fatalities occurred in clashes between rival clans, while the others were killed either by Hamas security forces or the Fatah-controlled police. During the same period, seven Palestinian journalists were either arrested or beaten by Hamas and Fatah security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.