RAMALLAH [MENL] — The Palestinian Authority crackdown against Hamas’s military infrastructure in the West Bank has been marred by disorganization, lack of equipment and poor intelligence.
Palestinian sources said PA security forces were determined to have been unprepared for the order to attack Hamas’s military infrastructure in the West Bank city of Kalkilya in May 2009. They said the operation on May 31 went so poorly that foreign security advisers, believed to have been Americans, were summoned to direct the final assault.
“The forces were disorganized, unable to work or communicate with each other and there was a lack of basic equipment and specialized personnel,” a source involved in the operation said.
The source said about 25 U.S. and other security advisers participated in the final assault on the Hamas safe house in Kalkilya on May 31. The assault ended a 10-hour standoff by 3,000 PA troops against a handful of Hamas fighters.
“It was an embarrassing experience,” the source said.
In Kalkilya, the sources said, the PA deployed troops from virtually every security agency, including the National Security Forces, Presidential Guard, Preventive Security Apparatus, General
Intelligence, Military Intelligence and police. They said the PA force fired about 5,000 rounds of ammunition into the Hamas stronghold.
“It was the first time troops from different PA security agencies were asked to work together,” another Palestinian source said. “The situation was chaotic with everybody firing wildly.”
The sources the PA force lacked snipers, body armor, negotiators and medical evacuation forces. They said two officers from PSA and one from NSF, injured in the initial assault, bled to death because their colleagues could not evacuate them under Hamas fire.
“The intelligence was poor,” a PA officer recalled. “The assessment was that Hamas would surrender. They didn’t. Instead, they were ready to die as martyrs.”
The operation was supervised by U.S. security envoy Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who was not seen in Kalkilya. The sources said as daylight approached on May 31, three vans with non-PA plates arrived in Kalkilya. About 25 black-clad men, wearing night-vision goggles and ear-pieces emerged. They did not greet any of the PA commanders.
At that point, a PA officer called on his bullhorn for the Palestinian force to withdraw about 10 meters to make room for the new squad. The black-clad men were said to have surveyed the Hamas safe house and ordered a reorganization of the PA frontline force.
The new arrivals then led an assault on the Hamas stronghold, barking orders in a non-Arabic language. Within minutes, the Hamas safe house was captured and three occupants, including the Hamas commander, were killed.
“They looked and acted like Americans,” a witness said. “Their tactics were nothing that the Palestinians here had seen.”
On June 4, PA security forces identified and raided another Hamas safe house in Kalkilya. The sources said the second operation, which resulted in three casualties, proceeded more smoothly than the May 31 raid.
Still, the Palestinian sources said morale within the PA plunged in wake of the bloody crackdown against Hamas in Kalkilya. They quoted parents of security recruits as saying that they had not realized that their sons were in mortal danger from Islamic insurgents.
“Many of those who joined the PA forces saw this as a means of prestige and the chance to walk around with a weapon,” the PA officer said.
“They didn’t imagine it would mean actually coming face-to-face with death.”