A local Palestinian Authority police chief was suspended after pictures of him apparently helping soldiers solve a mechanical issue with their military vehicle and fix a damaged tire in the Hebron area were widely shared on social media.
PA police chief Hazem Atallah suspended Col. Ahmed Abu al-Rub and ordered an investigative committee to look into the incident in the Hebron area, PA police spokesman Louay Zreikat told The Times of Israel on Thursday.
The pictures shared on Twitter and Facebook showed Abu al-Rub, who serves as PA police chief in the Hebron Governorate, kneeling and squatting on a dirt road beside a small group of Israeli soldiers and a military vehicle.
PA Hebron Governor Jabrin al-Bakri said Palestinian officials, civilians, businessmen and humanitarians including himself bumped into the soldiers after providing aid to Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills.
“As a part of our national, humanitarian and moral duty, we went to the Masafer Yatta region to support our people and their steadfastness and provide aid,” Bakri said in a statement.
“Our delegation was made up of approximately 50 persons including officials, civilians, security forces, businessmen, humanitarians…While on our our way home, we were surprised to find out that a military vehicle belonging to the occupation was blocking the road,” he said.
“So we asked our brothers in the [PA] Military Liason to inquire about the reason for the road being blocked and they told us the occupation army’s pretext is that their vehicle broke down and needs one of its tires to be replaced.
“After waiting for a long time and confirming the soldiers were not serious about fixing the problem with their vehicle, the Hebron police chief, who was traveling with us, showed the soldiers how to deal with the vehicle’s mechanical issue and fix the damaged tire. His goal was to end our suffering and reopen the road for us. That is what happened and the road was reopened and we safely left the area.”
Zreikat said the PA police department does not want to comment on the incident until the investigative committee completes its work.
“We are waiting for the results of the investigative committee,” Zreikat said. “I’m not in the position to say what is right or wrong.”
On Wednesday, many Arab and Palestinian social media users posted the photos of Abu al-Rub on Twitter and Facebook and blasted him for apparently helping the soldiers.
Ibrahim Hamami, a critic of the PA, called the incident in a Facebook post “scandalous” and “shameful.”
Quds News Network, a Palestinian news outlet, asked rhetorically on Twitter, “Do you see the decision [to suspend Abu al-Rub] as sufficient?”
The PA security forces and Israel work together on many security related matters in the West Bank.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli peace activists in a meeting in Ramallah in September that Palestinian and the Israeli security forces work together “on a daily basis,” according to Peace Now, whose executive director attended the meeting with the PA president.
Polls, however, have shown that Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation is highly unpopular on the Palestinian street.
In a survey conducted in 2015 by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 64% of Palestinians said told pollsters they support the discontinuation of security cooperation.