JERUSALEM – They are billed as the most professional Palestinian police force ever assembled.
They received advanced U.S. training and were deployed this week amid much fanfare and claims they would fight crime and terrorism.
But less than 30 minutes into their first mission, the force ran scared from armed terrorists they were charged with combating.
Meet the new elite police unit of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.
The U.S.-backed police force has been built up to assume security control of the West Bank following the planned creation of a Palestinian state and an expected Israeli evacuation from the territory.
As part of a trial balloon, a unit of 480 members of the elite force deployed Sunday in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The Jenin force’s commander, Suleiman Amran, told media the deployment is an important day for the town and that there’s “no chance for troublemakers to return to Jenin.”
Failing basic tests
The Jenin force followed a U.S.-trained unit of some 500 police officers deployed in February in the West Bank city of Nablus, also as a trial balloon. The Nablus unit failed basic tests and has been incapable of fighting terrorism, according to informed security officials who spoke last week to WND.
This week’s Jenin deployment was seen as a second test of the PA’s ability to assume control of the West Bank.
Gen. Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator to the Palestinian territories, personally oversaw the Jenin and Nablus units’ training at U.S.-operated bases in Jordan and in the West Bank city of Jericho. Dayton’s office has been monitoring closely the police force’s deployment and activities.
On Tuesday, the Jenin unit embarked on its first mission – to clear out a section of Cabatiya, a Palestinian camp just south of Jenin considered the main base of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.
About 200 policemen attempted to engage in fire clashes in Cabatiya with members of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror groups. The Brigades is the declared military wing of Abbas’ Fatah party.
But witnesses, including members of Abbas’ Fatah organization, and Israeli security sources monitoring the fight told WND that within less than 30 minutes of the start of the clashes, the elite Palestinian police force retreated from the scene.
“The security men ran away scared. They didn’t arrest anyone,” said one witness.
An Israeli security official closely monitoring the progress of the Nablus and Jenin forces previously told WND the units are largely failing.
“They cannot fight terrorism. The Israel Defense Forces must do most of the work for them in that regard. When it comes to public security, they can block off streets and create a perimeter and carry out other basic duties, but beyond that, fighting crime isn’t going well,” said the security official.
Another major episode evidencing the police unit’s failure to fight terrorism began playing out in Nablus last month when 13 senior leaders of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organization who had been pardoned recently by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert publicly took up arms and vowed terror attacks against Israel.
Olmert last June pardoned 175 Brigades terrorists as a gesture to bolster Abbas against Hamas. He pardoned dozens more earlier this year.
The terrorists were given amnesty on condition they disarm, refrain from attacks and spend three months in PA detention facilities and another three months confined to Nablus, where they reside.
But in a challenge to the new Nablus police force, the 13 senior Brigades terrorist leaders last month rejected the amnesty agreement, departed the PA detention facilities, publicly took up arms and created a stronghold in the Old City of Nablus.
Calling themselves the Night Warriors of Al Aqsa, the new cell vowed attacks against the Jewish state.
According to informed security sources, among the Brigades leaders rejecting the agreement were Hanni Caabe, Mahdi Abu Jazaleh, and brothers Omar and Amer Haqube – all of whom are high-ranking Brigades terrorists.
The U.S.-backed Nablus police unit, under Dayton’s watch, was called upon to eject the Al Aqsa terrorist rebels from Nablus’ Old City. The operation was to be seen as a major test of the force’s capabilities.
A large force attempted to raid the terrorists’ stronghold several times, but according to security officials, the forces repeatedly failed.
“We are talking about six attempts so far, five of the attempts utilized more than 300 policemen against the 13 terrorists and all attempts failed miserably,” said a security official.
“They couldn’t even get near the stronghold without being heavily fired upon and then retreating,” the security official said.
Finally, the IDF raided the Brigades stronghold, killing Brigades terrorist leader Caabe during a shootout and sending at least five other rebel Brigades terrorists into hiding.
“Israel had to come in and do the work for the Palestinian force,” said a security official. “I don’t know how they can handle security without Israel backing them up.”
U.S. training continues
Meanwhile, U.S. training of elite PA security forces continues. A new, three-month course began in March at U.S.-controlled bases in the Jordanian village of Giftlik, according to Israeli security officials. More than 600 elite PA soldiers are enrolled in the current course, which includes training in the use of weapons, conducting ambushes, fighting street crime, fighting terrorism and dealing with hostage situations, among other things.
After the unit is finished training in Jordan, they will continue with more advanced training courses at a U.S.-run base in the West Bank city of Jericho.
Security officials said Dayton rented an apartment in Jericho and is overseeing “every aspect of the new unit’s training.”
To interview Aaron Klein, contact M. Sliwa Public Relations by e-mail, or call 973-272-2861 or 212-202-4453.