Palestinian police began confiscating stolen Israeli cars in the West Bank city of Nablus
on Saturday and have beefed up their forces to crack down on growing lawlessness.
The police informed Palestinian terrorist groups
, which oversee theft rings and possess illegal weapons, that they also intend to start collecting unlicensed guns, police said.
The factions were told, in the meantime, to obey a recent order to keep their weapons out of the open, the police said.
demands that the Palestinian Authority
confiscate the guns from the militants and dismantle their groups. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
has thus far preferred to co-opt the groups so as not to touch off what he says could become a civil war.
As part of the crackdown in Nablus, more than 400 special police forces were brought into the city earlier this week, said Dehan Abdullah, a senior police commander in Nablus.
"We sat with all the factions and told them that we are bringing extra forces so that we can organize affairs - like stolen cars, traffic violations and illegal weapons - and take control of the streets," Abdullah said Saturday. "We will impose total order."
Palestinians working with Israeli crime rings steal thousands of cars from Israel every year although Israel's construction of a barrier along the outskirts of the West Bank has greatly reduced the trend, Palestinian police say. The police estimate that thousands of Israeli stolen cars are located in Nablus.
Police would not say when they would start collecting the unlicensed guns, an operation likely to set off tensions between the security forces and militant groups.
As part of the clampdown on car thefts, Palestinian police on Saturday demolished at least 24 stolen vehicles, saying they were afraid the thieves would try to steal them back and spark clashes.
Earlier this week, a Palestinian policeman and a militant were injured in an exchange of fire when police tried to take a stolen car from gunmen. In the clash, the militants stole a police car and two police guns.
Police also launched a similar operation to impose order in the West Bank city of Tulkarem
, but had not yet begun demolishing the stolen cars there, Abdullah said.
Israeli police want their Palestinian counterparts to do more.
"A large amount of stolen vehicles find its way into the Palestinian areas," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. "The Palestinian authorities are not doing enough against fighting crime."
Residents of Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, said Saturday that they felt a greater sense of security since the crackdown had begun.
"It's comfortable to go around the city and not be afraid for my children," said Tehani Zeid, a 35-year-old schoolteacher. "I'm glad I see less stolen cars and less weapons and I feel more secure."