The Palestinian Authority Security Forces (PASF) have upped their security raids in recent weeks and are now carrying out “their most significant security operation in the West Bank since 2008,” a PA official told defence industry journal Janes Defence Weekly.
The campaign, which began in Jenin this May, followed a raid on the home of the city’s governor Qadura Mousa by the members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. This triggered an investigation by the PA, which has expanded across the West Bank with suspects being detained and interrogated in the “Preventive Security centres» in Jericho and Dahriya.
The operation, allegedly conducted for security purposes, has so far seen nearly 150 rogue security personnel and former Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members arrested. Dozens of firearms were confiscated during the raids as well amid concern that they were being sold to members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the West Bank. PA Security Service Spokesman Adnan Damiri told the media «these undisciplined groups worked to create security-free areas that would be a challenge and threat to the PA” and that the “PA security institution has learned the lesson from this phenomenon and will not allow its repetition.» No evidence was given for charges laid against them and many were detained without any charges at all.
However, the PASF has not only been deployed to crack down on the activity of alleged militants in the West Bank. The forces have been involved in putting down demonstrations throughout the West Bank. Yesterday a protest against the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah was broken up with demonstrators reporting being beaten by Security Forces. The protestors gathered to speak out against PA officials meeting with Israeli Vice-Prime Minister Shaul Mofez to discuss further peace negotiations. Mofez’s long record of committing war crimes whilst serving in the IDF was cited by protestors as a reason for their dissent. The Washington Post reports that seven protesters were arrested along with two journalists whilst a Reuters cameraman was attacked and injured by the security forces.
The use of force on demonstrators is not an isolated phenomenon and has been consistent for some time. In February of this year the PASF halted and dispersed a march demonstrators had planned in order to protest Israel detaining Khader Adnan, whose hunger strike made headlines around the world.
The PASF have also moved to arrest popular resistance activists as well. In February of this year youth activist Mohammad Zughayar, the spokesperson of the youth group Youth Against Settlements, which acts to end the occupation through non-violent popular struggle and civil disobedience. Zughayar was not given any clear charge and reports at the time of his trial described his treatment as resembling that of a security threat and a criminal.
Concerns amongst activists that the Palestinian Authority are deliberately targeting and cracking down on popular resistance actions is ever increasingly, notes Jalal Abukhater, writing in Electronic Intifada. The close ties between the PASF and the Israeli and US militaries gives credence to this concern. The PASF are both armed and funded by the United States and Israel and trained by US Admiral Paul Bushong. Previously US General Keith Dayton had trained the PASF earning them the ridicule of many in the media who refer to them as the Dayton Forces. Amongst their more notorious activities was ensuring that no demonstrations occured in the West Bank during Israel’s assault on Gaza Operation Cast Lead in January 2009.