TEL AVIV [MENL] — Israel’s military has determined an expanding arms flow to Palestinian militias in the West Bank.
Military sources said Palestinian militias have been acquiring large amounts of weapons in the West Bank. They said the leading recipients have been the ruling Fatah movement, the opposition Hamas and the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad.
“Everybody is buying and stealing weapons because they feel there will be a conflict very soon,” a source said.
The sources said the Israel Army’s Central Command has sought to track the flow of weapons to the Palestinians. They identified huge arsenals in such cities as Hebron, Jenin and Nablus, all of them dominated by Hamas.
The military has determined that the stockpile of weapons stemmed from several causes. They cited the Palestinian assessment of another revolt against Israel as well as the collapse of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
“In either case, there will be a power vaccum in which weapons will play a crucial role,” the source said.
Another procurer of Palestinian weapons has been organized crime networks in the West Bank. The sources said organized crime was engaged in gun-running as well as using everything from light weapons to rocket-propelled grenades to settle conflicts and intimidate Palestinian businesses.
The army has been working with the Israel Security Agency to seize weapons flowing to the West Bank. On Nov. 8, an army battalion captured a large amount of firearms and ammunition in Hebron, including the obsolete Carl Gustav semi-automatic assault rifle.
“There’s a huge quantity of weapons in Hebron,” an army intelligence officer, identified only as Lt. L., told the Jerusalem Post. “They are sold by arms dealers to terror organizations, and to clans. They’re used in terror attacks, and in armed feuds between Palestinian clans.”
Another source of weapons has been PA security forces. The army has assessed that rogue officers were selling or leasing such weapons as AK-47 and the M-16 to organized crime as well as insurgency squads.
“We have arrested more than a few PA officers who have either used their weapons in terrorist attacks or lent them out to terrorist squads,” the source said.