Col. Radi Assidah, the Palestinian Authority's security commander in the Jenin area, said over the weekend that his force is protecting and providing shelter to Islamic Jihad fugitives. A number of Islamic Jihad activists wanted by Israel recently handed themselves over to the PA security forces in the city out of fear that they would be killed or arrested by Israel, Assidah said. The PA security commander's statements came in response to allegations by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that his forces were holding "political prisoners" in PA jails. Assidah said the Islamic Jihad men arrived about five months ago at the headquarters of the PA security forces in Jenin to seek sanctuary until their cases with Israel were resolved. "They sought refuge with us," he said. "Since then we have been hosting them in our headquarters. They are not prisoners and they are entitled to leave whenever they want." Assidah also revealed that the PA government of Salaam Fayad was paying the wanted Islamic Jihad men monthly salaries. The fugitives signed documents pledging to refrain from any "activities" until their cases were resolved, he said. The colonel expressed outrage over allegations that the Islamic Jihad men were being held against their will and were threatening to go on a hunger strike. "We are now discussing the problem of these men so that they could leave our headquarters," he said. "When they decide to leave, that will be done in front of the media to prove that the PA does not arrest anyone from Islamic Jihad."