How IDF’s counterterrorism raids keep the Palestinian Authority afloat

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People attend the funeral of Palestinian critic Nizar Banat, who died after being arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces, in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on June 25, 2021. REUTERS / Mussa Qawasma

Recent events in the West Bank have served as a reminder that there are some places where the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot move freely, and that without the IDF’s counterterrorism operations, Hamas would soon begin to threaten the stability of the PA. and its very capacity to remain in power.

The IDF dismantled a large, heavily armed Hamas cell in late September, arresting around 20 members in a series of security raids that included shooting attacks.

Five Palestinians – including at least four Hamas operatives – were killed in pre-dawn IDF raids in the village of Biddu, outside Jerusalem, as well as near Jenin, on September 26.

A few days later, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) gunman was killed in Burqin, near Jenin, after start the fire on IDF units carrying out an anti-Hamas operation in the region. Two IDF soldiers were seriously injured in the incident.

Associated coverage

October 18, 2021 12:31 P.M.

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Israeli security sources noted the Hamas cell was preparing a massive terrorist attack on the Israelis in Jerusalem, reminiscent of the types of attacks common during the Second Intifada, between 2000 and 2005.

The Jenin refugee camp is an example of an area that has become closed to Palestinian Authority security forces.

In recent weeks, armed men in Jenin walked in the streets, firing into the air with their automatic rifles and pledging to repel IDF attempts to enter the city or its refugee camp.

Armed men noted they formed a “joint operations room”, made up of representatives of various Palestinian factions to repel a possible “invasion” by the IDF, as Israel pursued a group of terrorists who had escaped from a nearby Israeli prison, most of whom are members of the Palestinian Islamic organization. Jihad.

Ultimately, the IDF was able to reprise the last remaining fugitives – two PIJ members hiding in Jenin – without incident, due to Israel’s deep intelligence control over the region, and its operational sophistication. The IDF sent forces to a section of Jenin and carried out a “loud operation” to attract attention, while a separate “silent” force went to places where the Shin Bet knew the two. escaped prisoners were in hiding.

Yet the lawless nature of parts of Jenin and other parts of the West Bank continues to pose a threat to regional stability. The warning signs of Jenin’s transformation into a terrorist hornet’s nest have multiplied.

Last year, unidentified gunmen carried out a shooting attack on the PA headquarters in the city, which caused damage but no injuries.

“We have seen this many times in the past – extraterritorial areas where PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his people will not dare to enter,” said Col. (Res.) Moshe Elad, one of the founders of the security coordination between the IDF and the Palestinian Authority. , said the Terrorism Investigation Project.

Elad, now a lecturer at Western Galilee College in northern Israel, said there had been no change in the Palestinian Authority’s security coordination with Israeli security forces. But, he said, recent events, such as the escape of prisoners from the PIJ, have underscored that “the Palestinian Authority is weak, and if it finds itself unable to pay the salaries of its tens of thousands of members of staff, it will collapse ”.

The extraterritorial areas described by Elad are dominated by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and militias affiliated with Fatah, but not by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas.

The Tanzim militia, for example, is loyal to jailed Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti, Elad said. “Abbas and his forces dare not enter areas controlled by the Tanzim. “

The threat posed by a Hamas presence in the West Bank “has never left the agenda,” Elad said, adding that this is where the interests of Israel and the Palestinian Authority meet.

“This is the raison d’être of security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

General Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service, has been accused “more than once of suppressing Hamas more than Israel, by dismantling Hamas institutions and by ‘manipulating’ its personnel Elad said.

The PA remains traumatized by its violent ousting from the Gaza Strip in the 2007 coup, which saw Hamas storm Fatah positions, and to throw Fatah members on the roofs of multi-story buildings.

On the other hand, he said, tribal family affiliations are growing among the Palestinian public in the West Bank, a factor that further questions the authority of the Palestinian Authority.

He described a long-standing trend among key members of Palestinian society in the West Bank to be “internally organized according to families”, with national identification “coming second”.

“Nablus is a vivid example. When the mayor of Nablus, Zafer Al-Masri, was assassinated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1986, many people attended his funeral, although he was accused of being an Israeli collaborator. . People didn’t understand why so many mourners came – it was because Al-Masri came from one of the main families in Nablus. Family belonging is dominant, ”said Elad.

As a result, deep-seated rivalries between families in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and other areas remain in place.

“The Palestinian Authority’s ability to come together is made possible by its ability to pay salaries. If that stopped, we would see its dismantling and an increase in the identifications of militias and families, ”Elad explained.

Abbas’s eventual departure from the scene could accelerate such trends. “Hamas would see an opportunity to expand its footprint,” he warned.

Hamas “can mobilize people in mosques. That’s what he plans to do, ”Elad said. “The only thing stopping it is the continued efforts of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The IDF is not leaving the area anytime soon, due to its need to protect the settler presence and Israeli roads. “

Ultimately, Elad said, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have found a mechanism to keep Hamas under control in the West Bank and prevent it from amassing the forces it needs to take control.

One day, however, “that could change,” and Hamas could surprise the whole region, he warned.

Terrorism Investigation Project (IPT) Principal Investigator Yaakov Lappin is a correspondent for military and strategic affairs. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks and is the military correspondent for the JNS. His book, The virtual caliphate, explores the jihadist presence online. A version of this article originally appeared on TPI.


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