The Palestinian Authority reportedly received a shipment of armored vehicles and weapons from the United States, as the Biden administration and Israel look to assist Ramallah in regaining control over West Bank areas that have become hotbeds for terror activity.
Citing informed Palestinian sources, the Jerusalem-based Palestinian daily Al Quds said Monday that the shipment was facilitated by Jordan and will be used by several branches of the PA security forces.
Notably, the shipment was approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government, which includes representatives who have long criticized the transfer of weapons to the PA.
Netanyahu and Israel’s security establishment maintain a different approach, viewing PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces as an important ally in combating terror in the West Bank.
However, as the PA faces a legitimacy crisis over its failure to deliver Palestinian statehood or even hold elections, its popularity has waned significantly, particularly in the northern West Bank where rivals have taken up weapons and challenged its authority.
Armed groups in Jenin and Nablus have carried out regular shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Israel says the weakening of the PA has left it with no choice but to send its own soldiers into such cities in the northern West Bank to arrest those responsible for attacks and confiscate the growing amounts of weapons that are being stockpiled there.
The PA argues that such raids hamper its legitimacy further, and insists that Israel let it deal with the problem on its own.
After a two-day IDF operation in Jenin in July, Israel appeared to acquiesce, shrinking the frequency of such raids in order to give the PA space to operate.
A senior officer in the PA security forces confided later that month that Ramallah faces an uphill battle in curbing terror in the West Bank, where Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have been recruiting impoverished youth to carry out attacks, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told The Times of Israel.
Nonetheless, Abbas directed his security chiefs in recent meetings to strike terror cells in the northern West Bank “with an iron fist,” Al Quds reported.
While the animosity toward the armed groups may have to do with Abbas’s public opposition to violence against Israel, the PA also stands to gain from the weakening of armed rival groups that challenge its authority.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of members of armed groups in Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarem have reportedly been arrested by the PA security forces this year.
Israel has also made an even larger number of arrests itself of Palestinian terror suspects.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not reply to a request for comment on the Al Quds report.
The State Department issued the following statement: “As a general matter we do not comment on specific transfers. That said, we can say that U.S. security assistance to the Palestinian Authority does not include provision of weapons or ammunition to the PA security forces.”
“We reiterate our continued commitment to cooperating with the Palestinian Authority, in coordination with the Government of Israel, to improve the security situation in the West Bank,” the statement continued. “We remain deeply concerned by the rising levels of violence in the West Bank over the past year and reiterate our view that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and security.”
“We continue to urge Israel and the Palestinian security forces to work together to improve the situation in the West Bank,” the State Department said.