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    PA works with Fatah armed groups after ending coordination with Israel

    The absence of the PA security forces has paved the way for members of the Tanzim and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to increase their activities in these areas,

    FATAH GUNMEN hold rifles during a demonstration in the West Bank. (photo credit: REUTERS)

    FATAH GUNMEN hold rifles during a demonstration in the West Bank.

    (photo credit: REUTERS)

    The Palestinian Authority security forces have stepped up their cooperation with activists belonging to the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, a Fatah official confirmed on Thursday.

    The increased cooperation came in the wake of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to renounce all agreements and understandings with Israel, including security cooperation between the PA security forces and the IDF, the official told The Jerusalem Post.

    The PA security forces have begun working with various Fatah-affiliated groups, including the faction’s armed groups Tanzim and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the official revealed.

    The cooperation began shortly after the outbreak of the coronavirus in the West Bank in early March, when the PA security forces sought assistance from Fatah activists in enforcing lockdowns and other security measures in several Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps.

    “The Palestinian Authority was unable to enforce its measures on the ground alone due to political, security and economic reasons,” another senior Fatah official told the Post. “The Palestinian security forces had to rely on volunteers from civil-society organizations and Fatah members in each city, village and refugee camp.”

    The volunteers and activists have since been working under the Supreme Emergency Committee, headed by PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.

    The committee established several subcommittees to assist in enforcing the state of emergency declared by Abbas to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. One of these subcommittees belongs to Fatah and includes hundreds of members of the Tanzim and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, who were tasked with security-related missions, including manning checkpoints at entrances to Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

    Following Abbas’s decision to halt security coordination with Israel, the PA security forces have stopped operating in many areas of the West Bank, particularly Area B, which is jointly controlled by Israel and the PA.

    The absence of the PA security forces has paved the way for members of the Tanzim and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to increase their activities in these areas, often to the dismay of many Palestinians, who expressed fear that the Fatah gunmen would replace the PA security forces in imposing law and order and combating crime.

    “The increased activities of the Tanzim and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades will undermine the Palestinian Authority and its security forces,” said Abdel Karim Jubran, a political analyst from Ramallah. “The biggest fear is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad would exploit the anarchy to step up their political and security activities in the West Bank.

    “We have already seen many Hamas and Islamic Jihad members involved in various activities, including relief work, in several areas, especially Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm. At the beginning, the Palestinian Authority made an effort to stop Hamas and Islamic Jihad from operating in the West Bank. Now, however, the Palestinian security forces and several mayors are not doing anything to stop these activities.”

    Samir Khaldoun, a former security prisoner and senior Fatah official from Nablus, said he did not rule out the possibility that the Fatah gunmen would play a major role if and when violence erupts between the Palestinians and Israel.

    “The Tanzim and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades played a big role during the Second Intifada,” Khaldoun told the Post. “In recent weeks, the two groups seem to have resumed their activities after receiving a green light from the Palestinian leadership. Until recently, the Palestinian security forces showed zero tolerance toward the public appearances of armed militias. Now we see that matters on the ground have changed, and these security forces are working closely with Fatah armed groups.”

    A senior Tanzim member in the town of Eizariya, east of Jerusalem, confirmed that his men were now working closely with the PA security forces. “Recently, we had a meeting with the [Palestinian] security commanders,” he said. “They pressured us to assume security responsibilities in our town. Basically, they wanted us to replace the security forces in enforcing law and order.

    “Now they are asking us to work in areas where the Palestinian security forces have stopped operating because of the decision to halt security coordination with Israel. They told us that Palestinian security officers would assist the Tanzim members, but without appearing in their uniforms because there’s no security coordination with the Israelis.”

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