PA arrests 19 Hamas members, suspects planning stabbing attacks

Palestinian sources say security forces monitoring social media sites for ‘potential suspects’

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian security forces participate in a training exercise in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, November 23, 2013. (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)
Palestinian security forces participate in a training exercise in the West Bank city of Tulkarem, November 23, 2013. (AP/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Palestinian Authority security forces arrested more than 19 Hamas members in the West Bank over the past few days, according to Palestinian sources.

In addition, claimed the sources, the PA forces — after monitoring social media sites for “potential suspects” — arrested several people suspected of planning to carry out stabbing attacks.

Meanwhile, Israeli authorities have confirmed that Palestinian security forces are making a massive effort to calm tensions in the West Bank and have, so far, succeeded in limiting confrontations in the territory.

In fact, over the past few days, there’s been a significant drop in the participation of Palestinians at protests in the West Bank. On Thursday, for example, only 40 demonstrators took part in a protest near Beit El, north of Ramallah, and about 1,000 participated in protests across the West Bank.

This drop is a result of two factors, according to recent assessments. First is the lack of motivation of the Palestinian public. Even in the current tense situation, Palestinian laborers continue to enter Israel for work. The olive harvest has also begun in Palestinian villages, and the inhabitants have asked to see the season through in peace.

The second factor is the deployment of PA security forces in Palestinian city centers to prevent widespread violent riots. The drop in the number of protesters at the checkpoint near Beit El is also a result of the activities of the PA forces at Birzeit University, which has supplied a lot of manpower to riots there.

The Palestinian sources are emphasizing that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has instructed his security forces to prevent a descent into a full-scale intifada in any possible way.

These instructions will be put to the test Friday as another Palestinian “Day of Rage” unfolds with demonstrations planned across the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem to protest the killing of Palestinians in clashes and stabbing attacks against Israelis, and the alleged harm to the status quo on the Temple Mount — a charge vehemently denied by Israel.

The Palestinians have repeatedly claimed that Israel plans to change the status quo at the site, which is holy to Jews and Muslims but where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray. Israel has repeatedly denied the accusation, which has been a key factor in the ongoing violence.

Since the beginning of the month, eight Israelis have been killed in a series of mainly stabbing attacks in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The near-daily attacks have heightened fears that a Third Intifada was under war.

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