Ramallah sends ministers to Jenin, cracks down on Islamic Jihad after IDF operation

Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority appears to try to reassert control over city in face of rival groups

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

File: Undated image of Palestinian Authority security forces with the Fatah flag. (Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV channel)
File: Undated image of Palestinian Authority security forces with the Fatah flag. (Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa TV channel)

A delegation of three ministers from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority visited the city of Jenin on Sunday and met with local officials, apparently as part of an effort to reassert the PA’s presence and clout in the city following the IDF operation against armed groups there last week.

The army operation revealed the level of armament and organization of terror groups in the city, most importantly the Jenin Battalion, a local wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, which has been operating outside the control of the Ramallah-based PA.

The PA is increasingly seen by some Palestinians as collaborating with Israel rather than fighting for their rights.

At a mass funeral held last Wednesday for some of the gunmen killed in the IDF operation, senior Fatah leaders were met with heckling and shouting from the angry crowd.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Azzam al-Ahmad, head of Fatah’s Central Committee, and other senior Fatah leaders were driven out of the event with participants shouting, “Get out!” as they raged against Fatah’s alleged neglect of the “resistance.”

To remedy the setback, deputy al-Aloul returned to the city three days later on July 8, for what appeared to be a friendly conciliatory meeting with the Jenin Battalion.

On Sunday, three PA ministers came from Ramallah to visit the city and meet officials. Interior Minister Ziyad Hab Al-Reeh, Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila and Local Government Minister Majdi Al-Saleh inspected the areas that were subject to Israeli incursion in the refugee camp and met with the Jenin Governor Akram Rajoub and Mayor Nidal al-Obeidi.

According to the PA’s official media outlet Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the three ministers conveyed Mahmoud Abbas’s instructions for a reconstruction plan for the city and refugee camp. The health minister also met with the director of a Jenin hospital treating the wounded from the operation.

The Jordan-based Palestinian opposition website Amad, commenting on the visit, ran an editorial noting that the Fatah presence seen in Jenin in the past 48 hours had not been seen in years, as the movement was too absorbed in its internal organizational questions and in “awaiting the post-Mahmoud Abbas era.”

The outlet claimed that Fatah is better at managing Israel’s security than the Palestinians’ own, and its leadership “only reacts, it does not act with a vision.”

Commenting on the meeting between Fatah officials and the Jenin Battalion, it said that Fatah put up a performance “only for self-publicity” that conferred it neither honor nor power. The leadership has not yet realized the extent of the “conspiracy” that is building up against it, the editorial concludes.

Meeting between a PA ministerial delegation and local officials in Jenin to present Mahmoud Abbas’ reconstruction plan for the city following IDF operation “Bayit vaGan,” Jenin, July 9, 2023 (alhaya.ps)

In parallel with the visits by ministers, the Palestinian Authority has adopted harsher methods to reestablish its control over Jenin. According to the Hamas-linked news site Palinfo, the PA has launched a crackdown on the Islamic Jihad in the Jenin area in recent days.

PA forces reportedly detained two men at a flying checkpoint set up during the IDF action as they were on their way to fight in Jenin. The two men, Murad Walid Malayshe (34) and Muhammad Walid Barahme (37), spent over 10 years in Israeli prisons for terror-related activities and are among “the most wanted by Israel,” according to Palinfo.

On Thursday, journalist Ahmed al-Betawi was reportedly arrested, as well as an “activist” from near Hebron named Louay Qabaja, who was allegedly detained for a Facebook post and has been on hunger strike ever since.

The crackdown against Islamic Jihad members in Jenin continued on the night between Saturday and Sunday, with the arrest of two other PIJ members including Ahmad Salatneh, director of a Jenin charity group affiliated with the Islamic Jihad.

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