Palestinian Authority does Israel’s dirty work, one killed in clashes
Last Monday night, in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian Authority (PA) arrested two resistance fighters and then clashed with demonstrators, leaving a 53 year old man dead. The PA’s crack down has sparked civil disobedience and threats of escalation.
Two Palestinian resistance fighters, Musab Shtayyeh and Ameed Tabila, were arrested last Monday night by the PA’s Preventative Security Service. The arrests occurred following meetings between Palestinian Authority and Israeli occupation officials, over the rise of armed resistance groups that have arisen in the cities of Jenin and Nablus. Israel has, in recent months, conducted dozens of raids, aimed at arresting and assassinating members of Palestinian armed cells.
After hundreds of shooting attacks, carried out throughout the West Bank, against Israeli settlers and soldiers, Israel has applied pressure on the PA to deal with the Palestinian armed groups. The most recent fatal attack occurred at the al-Jalama checkpoint, when two armed Palestinians killed an Israeli officer. The two attackers were pursued and executed by Israeli occupation forces. Controversy then struck when it was uncovered that one of the Palestinian gunmen, Ahmad Ayman Abed, was active in the PA’s security services as an intelligence officer.
For weeks Israel has been criticizing the lack of action taken by the PA’s forces to combat attacks on Israelis. The PA actively collaborates with Israel on ‘security coordination’ efforts to protect Israeli occupation forces and illegal settlers. This role played by the PA’s forces is the very reason for their existence in the eyes of the US, EU, and Israeli regime.
After a number of meetings with Israeli officials, the PA seems to have taken its first initiative to join the Israeli fight against Palestinian resistance forces, by arresting two fighters. One of the fighters, Musab Shtayyeh, has been on the run from the Israeli military since June, 2021, when his family home was raided. Shtayyeh has since survived a number of arrest campaigns and a high profile assassination attempt, which occurred on July 24, when hundreds of Israeli forces raided Nablus, killing three Palestinian fighters after special forces units used shoulder-mounted missile systems.
Palestinian political factions, along with civil society groups, have largely condemned the PA arrest campaign and the subsequent crackdown on Palestinian street protesters. Hamas, the democratically elected governing party in the Gaza Strip, stated the following:
“While the enemy continues to carry out killings, arrests, Judaisation and settlements, the PA aligns with it by continuing security coordination, the suppression of our people and the prosecution and arrest of the resistance fighters, in a behaviour outside all our national norms.”
Immediately following the arrests in Nablus, armed Palestinian fighters took to the streets of Nablus and Jenin, condemning the PA’s actions and threatening an escalation if such action continued. The fighters stressed on an official level that their guns were not to be directed at fellow Palestinians, but warned the PA not to force the hand of the resistance.
In Jenin, some fighters went a step further and decided to open fire on the empty offices of the PA security forces. In Nablus, young people took to the streets to demonstrate and burned tires in the city centre, to which PA security forces stormed the area and fired tear gas, as well as live ammunition towards protesters, injuring at least 4 unarmed demonstrators. It wasn’t long before armed resistance fighters decided to shoot back. It was later declared that a 53 year old Palestinian had been killed, which has largely been blamed on the PA forces, however, there is an ongoing dispute as to who exactly fired the kill shot.
What we got a taste of, last Monday night, was the beginning of the end to the PA’s corrupt and dictatorial rule in the West Bank. It will not likely be anytime in the immediate future that we will witness the complete collapse of the Palestinian Authority and this process will likely take a number of years, however, as the power of the independent armed resistance grows, the power of the PA will diminish.
The Palestinian armed factions in the West Bank, which are growing in size throughout the occupied territory, are strongest in Jenin and Nablus. These two cities, and the refugee camps surrounding them, are located in the north of the West Bank and have always been the areas where armed groups rise first. Although there may well be a lot of history and societal reasons for the resistance being the most active in the north, there can be no dispute that the north is a much easier landscape in which to operate when compared to the tightly controlled southern portions of the West Bank.
The West Bank was set up into three separate areas of control, following the Oslo Accords – agreements signed between Israel and the former Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The areas are; Area C, which constitutes just over 60 percent of the territory and is in the complete control of Israel; Area B, 22% of the land, where the “Palestinian Authority” has administrative control and Israel maintains “security” control; and Area A, which constitutes 18% of the West Bank and is supposed to be under full PA control, however, Israel raids the area whenever it chooses.
The Palestinian Authority was set up in order to rule over the most heavily populated areas of the West Bank, under Israeli occupation, managing the domestic security situation. This model began to show cracks, from a US-Israeli perspective, in the year 2000 when the second intifada [Palestinian uprising] erupted. At that time, under the PA’s President Yasser Arafat, the PA forces were actually useful to the Palestinians in many ways and simultaneously armed groups were allowed to grow separately from them. Eventually, Arafat’s PA forces became part of the fight against Israel. However, following Israel’s murderous ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ in 2002, much of the Palestinian forces were crushed and that’s when the US decided to apply its pressure on the PA.
The CIA actively played the role of completely dismantling the PA security forces of the past and turning them into an Israeli-US-EU “anti-terrorism” proxy task-force. From 2002 came the 100-day reform program for the PA security forces, who would eventually be trained to form an Israeli proxy army in the West Bank.
The second intifada was a bloodbath and the majority of the resistance faction’s leaders were either dead, imprisoned, or decided to integrate themselves within the PA’s new “security” force structure. Now, fast forward about 20 years, since the beginning of the second intifada, and we have the new generation of Palestinians.
Most of the members of the newly formed armed groups are aged 18-25, and this is significant. These fighters weren’t old enough to process the idea of defeat in the same way their parents did, they only remember the suffering, and now they have had enough. At this time, these newly formed armed movements are not highly trained, they are ill-experienced and do not fall under any coherent command or control structures. Although this fact makes them unpredictable, hard to dismantle, and therefore extremely dangerous to the Israeli military, they are by no means prepared to take on the Israeli army head on. The training, the expertise, the command-and-control and weapons will come over time, but they are not yet at the level of their fellow resistance comrades in the Gaza Strip at this time.
The PA is in a difficult position right now, it is faced with massive pressure from its bosses in Washington and Tel Aviv to act against the armed groups, yet can’t act too harshly or it could face complete collapse. Whilst the PA forces have been trained to deal with Palestinians, to put down demonstrations, arrest dissenters, and are deployed in areas where they have no family and are unfamiliar with those they rule over, at the end of the day they are still Palestinians. The PA may be able to use its security forces to put down some demonstrations and to arrest some fighters, yet it cannot launch a full-scale crackdown in order to destroy the armed resistance forces.
Israel could launch a large-scale military operation of its own, aimed at dismantling the armed Palestinian resistance movements, and is, right now, trying to achieve small victories with select assassination and arrest campaigns. However, the Israeli military knows that a war on the resistance would cost them many troops and this would mean that Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, and minister of war, Benny Gantz, would both pay the political price of such an operation. The Israeli elections are coming up and a mass-scale military campaign in the West Bank is risky. Especially with the US Biden administration favoring Gantz and Lapid, over their rival Benjamin Netanyahu, there is pressure from Washington not to escalate.
If the PA chooses to go to war with the resistance, on behalf of its Israeli allies, there is a big chance that many members of the security forces will end up changing sides. Then, if this is to happen, the resistance will have solved the issue of lack of experience and could become ten times as powerful overnight. Regardless, eventually the PA security force members are going to be faced with two options; kill your own people or side with them against your occupier.