Amid increased reports that local families and militiamen have illegally seized many of the lands that were evacuated by Israel last August, a senior Palestinian Authority official on Wednesday admitted that the PA has failed to take control of the former settlements in the Gaza Strip. "The Palestinian Authority has failed to deal appropriately with the Israeli withdrawal," said Frieh Abu Medin, chairman of the PA's Land Authority. "All the Palestinian committees that were formed to administer the evacuated territories have also failed in assuming their responsibilities." Abu Medin, a former minister of justice in the PA, pointed out that the PA security forces had failed to protect the infrastructure of the settlements, including electricity and water, which were destroyed by tens of thousands of Palestinians who went on the rampage in these areas shortly after the Israeli pullout. Many Palestinians have complained over the past few weeks that armed gangs and large clans had fenced off several plots of land belonging to the former settlements. They said some of the intruders belonged to various branches of the PA security forces. According to Abu Medin, the PA has invested at least $12 million in a bid to maintain the infrastructure of the former settlements, but to no avail. "The money has gone down the drain," he added, noting that Palestinian hooligans had destroyed almost everything there. "The security forces that were entrusted with protecting these places did not fulfill their duties." He also revealed that the PA's Agricultural Development Company has failed to administer the greenhouses left behind by the settlers. Funded by the PA's Finance Ministry, the company was supposed to prepare plans for using the greenhouses for the benefit of the Palestinians. "The company has failed and now it's trying to lease the greenhouses to Palestinian, Arab and foreign investors," he charged. "This is in violation of the Palestinian law." A top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that many businessmen were reluctant to invest in the former settlements because of the ongoing state of lawlessness and anarchy. "They're telling us that they don't want to put their money in an area controlled by thugs and thieves," he said. In a related development, 19 Palestinian public organizations in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday expressed deep concern over the way the PA was handling the lands of the former settlements and called for the establishment of an independent body that would be entrusted with taking control of these areas. The organizations also urged the PA to launch an immediate and thorough investigation into allegations of land theft and the destruction of the greenhouses and infrastructure.