With Israel’s okay, Palestinian cops step up operations near Jerusalem

With Israel’s okay, Palestinian cops step up operations near Jerusalem

PA police are increasingly active on outskirts of capital in villages formally under Israeli security control, seizing weapons and making terror and drug busts

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 patrolling Bethlehem in 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Palestinian security forces patrolling Bethlehem in 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority’s police force, in cooperation with Israel, has significantly increased its operations in villages and towns around Jerusalem, Palestinian sources said this week.

The increased activity is taking place in West Bank areas, designated as Area B, that are formally under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security authority, the sources told The Times of Israel. PA police are cracking down in these areas on domestic crime, such as drug dealing and car theft, and have also carried out raids on terror groups and confiscations of illegal arms.

The areas where the PA police have increased their activities include Anata, Eizariya, Abu Dis and especially al-Ram, on Jerusalem’s northern outskirts, close to the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Yaakov.

All of these areas are supposed to be under full Israeli security control, but Israel is allowing Palestinian police to operate there as well, the sources said.

A rise in arrests and thwarted attacks by Palestinian police has been seen across the West Bank and not just near Jerusalem, but the most dramatic uptick has been noted in recent weeks in al-Ram.

Home to some 70,000 Palestinians sandwiched alongside the security barrier between Jerusalem and Ramallah, al-Ram has become a hotbed of drug dealing in recent years, as Israeli police avoided the area and Palestinian security forces were kept out, leaving a vacuum filled by violent gangs.

Until recently the Palestinian police force there was limited, at Israel’s insistence, to a squad of 15 officers with a few weapons. But that changed after an arrest raid on two suspected drug dealer brothers went awry on April 21, the sources said.

The PA police laid in wait for the suspects, but when the brothers exited their vehicle they saw the cops and opened fire. A Palestinian police officer was moderately to seriously hurt and was taken for treatment in Israel. Another cop was hit in the shoulder and lightly hurt; a passerby was also injured by the gunfire.

The incident led the Palestinian Authority to intensify security efforts in al-Ram; the next day, it sent dozens of police to the village, some of whose homes are adjacent to the IDF’s central command headquarters.

Illustrative: Palestinian men climb a section of Israel's security barrier in the village of Al-Ram, on June 26, 2015 (Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinian men climb a section of Israel’s security barrier in the village of Al-Ram, on June 26, 2015 (Flash90)

Since then, between 50 and 100 PA policemen have been working around the clock and have seized weapons, ammunition and drugs, and busted several drug dealers. In an effort to put pressure on the two suspects who fled the bust in April, several of their relatives were arrested and later released.

Similar PA police activity is under way in Anata, alongside the Shuafat refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem. In reality, it is hard to distinguish between the refugee camp and Anata, but the camp is considered off-limits for Palestinian police operations because part of it falls within Jerusalem’s municipal jurisdiction.

Abu Dis seen next to the security barrier. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Abu Dis seen next to the security barrier. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Last week, Baha Nabata, a Palestinian activist who worked to improve conditions in the camp and fought against criminal elements there, was murdered there.

PA police have also been active in Eizariya and Abu Dis, as well as Sawahra and Sheikh Sa’ed on Jerusalem’s southern outskirts, near Bethlehem, all in coordination with Israel.

Other areas where Palestinian police have been operating recently include the villages northwest of Jerusalem such as Bir Naballah, al-Jib, Qatana and Bidu. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in these areas, which are close to both Jerusalem and Ramallah but with a lower cost of living than the cities.

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