Presentation given at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on July 24th, 2003
(Presentation hosted by the Center For Near East Policy Research and the Israel Resource News Agency)
Copyright © Gal Luft
[Permission to use this material only with the express consent of Dr. Luft]
In the period between the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000, the Palestinian Authority (PA) proved that it had not renounced the use of force as a viable instrument of policy. On the contrary, throughout the eight years of diplomatic negotiations with Israel, it has repeatedly and deliberately used violent means whenever diplomacy failed to fulfill the Palestinians’ political aspirations. Palestinian Minister of Information, Yasser Abd Rabou, confirmed this two-prong strategy: “The Palestinian side,” he said, “will make clear that the negotiations will go on alongside the Palestinian struggle against the occupation. It would be impossible to continue the negotiations unless it is to a certain extent combined with a certain [level] of struggle against the occupation.”
To be able to combine violence and diplomacy, the PA needed to develop a military capability that would allow it to offset Israel’s overwhelming military superiority. And indeed, under the guise of an innocent police force, a sizable Palestinian military apparatus emerged west of the Jordan River Valley. The army of the PA became a complex, badly managed cluster of at least a dozen loosely connected armed groups, not including the other Fatah-affiliated armed groups: Tanzim and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Operating under a “divide and conquer” strategy, PA chairman Yasser Arafat built his forces in such a way that only he could arbitrate between them, giving none of them enough power to threaten his regime. All of them, however, were given leeway to develop capabilities that would eventually threaten Israel.
Several times prior to the second intifada Palestinian military and para-military forces were engaged in fighting against Israel. In addition to the 1982 Lebanon War in which Israel defeated Palestinian brigades belonging to the Palestinian National Liberation Army, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) met the Palestinian armed forces in combat twice before the summer of 2000. The first incident occurred in September 1996 following a controversial decision made by then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to open to the public a Herodian Tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem. The decision sparked a three-day combat in which 69 Palestinians and 14 IDF soldiers died, and over 1,200 people were wounded. Most of the fire in this encounter was generated by uniformed Palestinian policemen who had been trained to prevent exactly such occurrence. For the IDF, the Tunnel riots were a seminal event that changed the attitude toward the PA’s security services from a partner for peace to a potential foe. As a result, the IDF revised its doctrine and began to seriously prepare for the possibility of an armed clash with the Palestinian security services.
May 2000 brought the outbreak of a second wave of riots, referred to by the Palestinians as the “al-Nakba Riots”. The participation of the uniformed Palestinian security forces in these riots was more limited than in 1996. Alternatively, the riots introduced Tanzim, the armed faction of the Fatah movement, as an independent armed militia and a key player in the Israeli-Palestinian security arena. It became apparent that by arming and financing popular militias in the PA controlled territories, Yasser Arafat has been preparing an alternative military force to operate alongside his official, uniformed security apparatus.
The two violent clashes exposed the duality in the PA’s way of using force. The PA has managed to integrate conventional military capabilities with popular elements operating at the grass-roots level. The merit of this duality of means is that it allows the PA to engage in a popular war and yet continue to build conventional military capabilities that might be needed for a wider, high-intensity conflict. Summer 2000 brought about two major events: the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the failure of the Camp David peace negotiations. Inspired by Hizbullah’s success in driving Israel out of Lebanon, Arafat decided, as many times before, to improve Palestinian political standing through the use of force. Asymmetrical warfare has emerged in modern history as the weapon of the weak; he thought that as such, if used persistently, it could yield substantial gains. The success of dedicated, poorly equipped guerrilla forces in prevailing over superior conventional armies in places like Algiers, Vietnam, Sudan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Lebanon, has been a source of inspiration to many Palestinians. ]
They believed that a protracted campaign of terror and violence would be sufficient to bring Israel to make further concessions to those made in Camp David. Hence, the tenets of the PA’s strategy of fighting Israel in the first year of the intifada were violent demonstrations designed to give it an image of a popular struggle complemented by a campaign of terror by Islamic fundamentalist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These groups enjoyed freedom of operation and often the direct assistance of the Palestinian security forces. In addition, the PA launched a massive propaganda campaign and used diplomatic manipulations in an attempt to internationalize the conflict. To make things worse, Arafat allowed the Tanzim to develop as a parallel paramilitary force with so many weapons and so much power that his security apparatuses could not stand against it even if he decided to stop the violence. Tanzim members — many of whom also serve in the ranks of the Palestinian security forces — often act as though they are above the law and therefore did not submit to the authority of the Palestinian police. The few attempts by Palestinian police to arrest popular Tanzim activists or to confiscate their weapons ended in civil disobedience and, at times, in violence.
In the second year of the intifada Tanzim, through its military wing the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, adopted the use of suicide bombers and took the lead of the terror campaign from the Islamists. In fact, Tanzim was responsible for some of the bloodiest terror attacks inside Israel including the March 2002 Passover Massacre in which 29 Israelis were killed while attending a Seder in Netanya. Tanzim’s espousal of terror as a key component in its war against Israel blurred the lines between the Islamists and the PA allowing the Palestinian security forces to openly engage in terrorism.
Documented evidence gathered from Arafat’s offices in Ramallah reveal a disturbing picture of Arafat’s personal involvement in financing and facilitating terrorism. The documents also prove beyond doubt the deep involvement in terrorism of top officials in the Palestinian security establishment.
This brought about a change in the Israeli approach toward Arafat and his units. They were no longer perceived as guardians of peace but rather as part of the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Hence, over the thirty three months following September 2000, the IDF has launched numerous attacks against Palestinian military infrastructure using helicopters, jet fighters, tanks and missiles to destroy most of the PA’s headquarters, training bases, vehicles and equipment. The heaviest attack occurred in March 2002, after Palestinian terrorism rocked Israel’s main cities no less than 12 times in one month, killing 70 and wounding 548. Israel decided to take off the gloves and do exactly what Arafat had promised to do but failed to deliver: eliminate the Palestinian centers of terror. On March 28, hundreds of Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into six Palestinian-controlled cities. One by one, Ramallah, Kalkilya, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Nablus and Jenin were seized by the IDF as part of Operation Defensive Shield. The operation was a heavy blow to the PA. Thousands of weapons were confiscated and hundreds of militants were arrested including many members of the security apparatuses.
The view that the Palestinian security forces are tainted with terror is also held today by the U.S. administration. In his historic June 24 speech, President George W. Bush declared that Palestinian statehood would be conditioned on a complete reform of the security forces and total rejection of terrorism. “Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism. This is unacceptable,” he said. “The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure. This will require an externally supervised effort to rebuild and reform the Palestinian security services. The security system must have clear lines of authority and accountability and a unified chain of command.”
The demand for comprehensive reforms in Arafat’s security services was also repeated in the Quartet’s “roadmap” to Israeli-Palestinian peace, developed in order to fulfill the vision laid out in Bush’s June 24 speech. Disappointingly, as of this writing, the necessary reforms have not been implemented and there is no sign that the Palestinians are prepared to relinquish violence as a tool to achieve their political aspirations.
The chaotic nature of the situation on the ground poses great challenge for military analysts trying to assess current Palestinian military capabilities. Nevertheless, this study attempts to describe the status of the various apparatuses, their weapons, missions, doctrine, training, and their relations with fellow security bodies. It also presents an assessment of the implications of the intifada on the readiness of the forces and their ability to endure a long period of fighting with Israel.
The second part of this work will examine the different aspects in which Palestinian military forces could pose a military challenge to the IDF and to Israel at large. These aspects will be reviewed through three scenarios. The first is, in essence, a prolongation of the existing situation in which Israel and the PA military bodies fight each other using guerrilla and counter-guerrilla tactics. The tactics used by the Palestinians under this scenario include ambushes, bombings, drive-by shootings, coordinated attacks on Israeli military outposts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
The IDF’s action involves the use of high-tech weapons and specialized units and is directed mainly toward Palestinian military installations, infrastructure of terror organizations and individuals suspected in military activity against Israel. At times, IDF units carry out incursions into Palestinian controlled territories for punitive or preemptive purposes or to remove threats from the vicinity of Israeli settlements.
Nevertheless, despite the intensity of the fighting, both sides refrain from using their entire arsenal and military capabilities against each other. The Israeli military has so far refrained from invading and re-conquering the Gaza Strip, the center of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the PA has held back some of its forefront units from joining the fray.
The second scenario will describe an all-out Israeli-Palestinian military confrontation in which the PA uses all the weapons, units and tactics that have not been used until now. Naturally, such escalation will force Israel to expand its own arsenal of lethal weapons, including the extensive use of air power, artillery and heavy armored formations. According to various reports, Israel is not ruling out the possibility of launching an all-out attack against the PA in the Gaza Strip in response to escalated violence. Such radical measures would entail the IDF to move into the city of Gaza in order to destroy the military and political infrastructure of the PA and the terror organizations it hosts. This, in turn, would put the PA in a battle for its survival. The Palestinians’ lack of a comprehensive defense system and the disparity in power between the PA forces and the IDF would bring about a complete destruction of the remainder of the PA’s military infrastructure as well as its political institutions. But before this happens, the IDF will have to meet Arafat’s soldiers in the narrow streets of cities like Gaza, Rafah, Khan Yunis and the adjacent refugee camps as well as in West Bank cities which the IDF invaded many times before. Urban war, as the IDF experienced in the battle of Jenin refugee Camp during Operation Defensive Shield, could be complex and costly in term of casualties. Success in such a war depends mostly on the ability of the attacker to crush the fighting will of the defender before international intervention takes place. The degree of persistence and willpower of the Palestinian security forces and the Palestinian population from which these forces draw their support is likely to be one of the most important considerations that would determine whether Israel should embark on such an operation. The PA, seeking new means of deterrence to deter Israel from launching such an attack, may resort to examining unorthodox options in the sphere mega-terror attacks and use of non-conventional weapons.
The third scenario will focus on the role of the Palestinian military forces in the event of a regional war involving one or few Arab players such as Syria, Libya, Iran, and Hizbullah. The danger of intervention of more Arab states such as Saudi Arabia or Morocco as well as the abrogation of existing peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt should not be discounted. The plausibility of such a scenario have been, somewhat, reduced in the wake of the terror attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the subsequent U.S. declaration of war on terrorist organizations and their host nations and U.S liberation of Iraq. But the unpredictable nature of the region, the conflicting agendas of the different players and the traditional fragility of military coalitions still give this scenario a degree of plausibility.
Such a war could be triggered, for example, by a Hizbullah missile attack on Israel’s north. Such an attack is likely to elicit massive Israeli retaliation against Syrian-occupied Lebanon and Syria itself and might involve other countries. Palestinian action could also trigger regional turmoil. A successful mega-terror attack causing hundreds of Israeli casualties would most likely provoke a large-scale, uninhibited punitive offensive that could, in turn, create a humanitarian crisis, Palestinian flight to Jordan and severe destabilization in the region including a real danger to the Hashemite Kingdom. Fighting in the framework of a coalition of Arab states, the PA military units could have an important supporting role with considerable operational implications on the IDF’s ability to mobilize its essential reserve component. Palestinian military and para-military forces could also attempt to attack important military and civilian installations inside Israel itself, creating havoc and significant psychological damage.
THE PA SECURITY SERVICES: STRUCTURE AND ORGANIZATION
The formation of the Palestinian security apparatuses were explicitly defined by the Cairo Agreement signed in May 1994 and the subsequent Oslo II Agreement signed in September 1995. The Cairo Agreement determined that the Palestinian Authority could establish a strong police force that would be referred to as “the Palestinian Police.” The duties, functions, structure, deployment and composition of the Palestinian Police, together with provisions regarding its equipment and operation, were prescribed in the agreement. The PA police undertook to perform normal police functions, including maintaining internal security and public order, protecting the public and its property and acting to provide a feeling of security and safety, adopting all measures necessary for preventing crime and protecting public installations and places of special importance.
The Oslo II Agreement signed in September 1995 added an important duty to the Palestinian Police: combating terrorism and violence and preventing incitement to violence.
The agreements also provided the means to do the job. Israel allowed the PA to absorb up to 7,000 veterans of the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) living throughout the Arab world and to recruit them into the ranks of the Palestinian Police. The rest of the men were to be recruited from the local population of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Police was to be composed of seven integral branches: Civil Police, Public Security, Preventive Security, Intelligence, Presidential Guard, Coastal Guard and Emergency Services and Rescue. The agreement specified that except for the Palestinian Police referred to in the agreement, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. In reality, the PA employs today at least 12 different security apparatuses, this without taking into account the Tanzim, Fatah’s armed militia, the most dominant force in the second intifada and other armed groups such as the Popular Resistance Committees and the al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades which will be described later.
National-Security Force ( Kuwaat Al-Amn Watani) (NSF)
As the largest security service, numbering about 14,000 men, the NSF is responsible for most of the missions along the borders of “Area A”, the area which used to be under exclusive Palestinian control, and inside the cities. Soldiers of the NSF guard most of the checkpoints on the outskirts of main cities taking part in other general security-related missions. Until the outbreak of the second intifada, the force also operated a company specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Patrols.
The forces in Gaza are organized in three brigades, a northern brigade, responsible for the northern part of the Gaza Strip including Gaza City, a southern brigade responsible for the southern region of Rafah and Khan-Yunis, and a border brigade of approximately 1,000 troops which patrols along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, the NSF consists of eight battalions of 400-450 troops deployed in the large Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem, Jericho, Kalkilyah, Nablus, Hebron, and Bethlehem.
The NSF recruited most of its men from the PLA and gradually added increasing numbers of local recruits. Commanding the NSF in Gaza is General Abdel al Razzak Majaideh. The commander in the West Bank is General Haj Ismail, both officers are PLA veterans. NSF units were equipped with 30 armored vehicles BRDM2, most of them were destroyed in Israeli raids. The troops carry AK-47s and pistols but also keep heavier weapons in their arsenal. Civil Police (Shurta Madaniyya)
The civil police, known as the Blue Police, is the PA’s main law enforcement apparatus. It handles ordinary police functions such as directing traffic, arresting common criminals, fighting drug trafficking and keeping public order. The organization employs over 7,500 policemen in Gaza and approximately 4,700 in the West Bank. According to the interim agreement, the Civil Police would also deploy in 25 selected villages and towns throughout the West Bank’s Area B, the area of PA civilian jurisdiction and Israeli military control. The policemen in these villages were allowed to carry firearms within the village territory, and to maintain public order but this arrangement has been cancelled since the outbreak of the hostilities.
The police forces are equipped with light weapons and drive blue vehicles. Just like other apparatuses, the infrastructure of the Palestinian Police was considerably damaged by Israel. Members of the Civil Police, including its former commander, General Ghazi Jubali, have been involved in terror attacks against Israeli targets. In July 1997, the IDF caught three policemen who were on their way to attack a Jewish settlement near Nablus. Jubali turned out to be the person who masterminded the attack and since then he is wanted by the Israeli authorities. As a result, he was excluded from all the security negotiations between Israel and the PA. Jubali is prohibited from leaving the Gaza Strip and cannot have direct command over his troops in the West Bank. Police operations in the West Bank are, therefore, directed by the local police chief, Muhammad Jabari, whose headquarters are in Ramallah.
In December 2000, the death of Jubali’s deputy Abdel Muati al-Sabawi while trying to dismantle a bomb, revealed the connection of members of the Civil Police to an illicit weapons industry in Gaza. According to Israeli sources, Jubali and some of his deputies were personally involved in coordinating the production of mortar shells and hand grenades.
Jubali was replaced by Brig. Gen Salim al Burdeini. Rapid Deployment Special Police Unit
This is the spearhead of the Civil Police. This force of a few thousand highly trained men specializes in handling complex crises such as severe riots, and counter-terrorism operations. The unit is specifically trained in urban warfare and is the most capable in restoring order in the PA’s crowded refugee camps. Many of the commanders of the unit have undergone training in the Soviet Union and one of their important roles is to train instructors for the other Palestinian security services.
In October 2002, a group of Hamas gunmen kidnapped and killed the unit’s commander, Col. Rajeh Abu Lihyeh. Hamas refused to hand over the principal suspect and resisted attempts by the PA to storm the refugee camp where he lives. The incident triggered clashes between Fatah and Hamas leading to five deaths.
Presidential Security Force 17 (Amn Al- Ri’asah)
Force 17 is the unit that is responsible for the protection of Yasser Arafat as well as other VIPs and important installations in the PA. This high quality security apparatus, commanded by Faisal Abu-Sharah since 1994, is based on the historical Force 17 which provided PLO leaders intelligence and protection against internal rivals during the 1970s and 1980s.
The force is estimated at 2,000 men in the Gaza Strip, deployed in three geographical battalions: a northern battalion, a southern battalion and a battalion, which controls Gaza City. In the West Bank, the force consists of approximately 1,500 men, most of whom are deployed in Ramallah and commanded by Mahmoud Damara, also known as “Abu-Awad”.
In addition to providing security guards, Force 17 deals with counter- terrorism and the arrests of opposition activists and suspects of collaboration with Israel. It also assists the NSF in routine security missions along the border with Israel and patrols the main cities.
Force 17 has two subsidiary bodies, subjected to the Presidential Security command. The first is Force 17 Intelligence Unit whose main mission is gathering information about the activities of the opposition movements and other domestic threats. The other is the Presidential Guard, Arafat’s most loyal and trusted inner circle. This small unit of several dozen elite fighters provides the tight security around him, preventing any assassination attempts. The unit commander is Yusuf Ali Ahmed Abdallah, also known as “Dr. Yusuf”.
Unlike the other security services, Force 17 consists mainly of officers who came from Tunisia in 1994. These officers are hardly known in the public and lack local ties and popularity that many of the other military leaders enjoy.
According to the IDF, Force 17 members, especially in the West Bank branch, were involved in numerous terror attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians such as shooting attacks, roadside bombs and mortar attacks. In February 2000, a cell of Force 17 members in coordination with Hizballah, was associated with launching mortars on a Gaza Strip settlement. The group’s leader, Mas’oud Ayad, was assassinated by the IDF shortly afterwards. On March 30, 2001, Israeli forces bombarded from the air two of the headquarters of this force in Ramallah and Gaza. Soon after, in early April, Israeli forces arrested several members of this force inside Area A. Force 17 bases and offices were severely damaged by Israel’s attacks, especially during the attack on Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah during Operation Defensive Shield.
Preventive Security Forces (Amn Al-Wiqa’i) (PSF)
This plainclothes security force operates in the West Bank and Gaza with an estimated power of close to 5,000 agents and is known to be the largest of the PA’s intelligence forces. Until the outbreak of the intifada, this body was involved in preventive actions against terrorist and opposition groups as well as information gathering in Israel. It had its own prison and interrogation installations. Some of the PSF activities were associated with violence, abduction of civilians, interrogations, tortures, and other illegal actions. The PSF achieved, therefore, a reputation for human rights violations including the death of tortured detainees.
PSF leaders prior to the hostilities, Jibril Rajub in the West Bank and Muhammad Dahlan in Gaza, were amongst the most powerful individuals in the security establishment. They were politically influential due to their power among the grass roots as well as their political connections with the political leadership of the PA. Both of them were part of the Fatah leadership at the beginning of the first intifada and both were imprisoned in Israel. During the heydays of the peace process, they worked in close cooperation with the Israeli security forces especially in the fields of counter-terrorism and crime prevention. They were also involved in the economic life of the PA and had control over the PA’s imports and exports of goods and services. They were known to be involved in corrupt practices such as collection of protection fees, issuing of business licenses, extortion and theft.
With the outbreak of the second intifada, both leaders were faced with increasing criticism regarding their previous collaboration with Israel. To enhance their credibility and patriotism in the eyes of the Palestinian public, they had to re-invent themselves and adopt hard-line positions. As a result, the PSF, especially its Gaza branch, has gradually become an active participant in the fighting. The PSF headquarters in Gaza converted itself into the main center for the manufacturing of weapons and a safe haven for terrorists planning to carry out attacks in the Gaza Strip. Within the headquarters, and with full knowledge and consent from senior members of the PSF, a huge amount of weapons was manufactured and stockpiled. These weapons were handed out freely to terrorist cells belonging to Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, which used them to carry out daily bomb and shooting attacks in the Gaza Strip. Dahlan and his deputy, Rashid Abu-Shabak, were reportedly involved in directing and sponsoring terror attacks against Israeli targets in the Gaza Strip. Abu Shabak has been personally involved in the November 2000 attack on a school bus in Kfar Darom, and is the driving force behind Palestinian production of mortars and rockets. He and his deputy Samir Mashrahawi maintain close working relations with Hamas and PIJ. PSF members in the West Bank have also been involved in planning, executing and backing terror attacks including an attempt to blow up a car bomb in an Israeli population center.
The PSF involvement in terrorism triggered a change in Israel’s approach toward the organization. Rajub, Dahlan and Abu-Shabak were treated no more as part of the solution but as a major part of the problem.
Their headquarters were destroyed and key members of their organizations were arrested or assassinated. Due to personal tension with Arafat and the leadership of Tanzim, both security chiefs were forced to step down as part of the changes that took place in the security forces in July 2002. Dahlan’s position was taken by Abu-Shabak. Rajub was replaced by Brigadier-General Zuheir Manasra, former governor of Jenin. But PSF members refuse to obey his orders. Instead, they submit to Rajub’s deputy Colonel Bashir Nafe. With the establishment of the Palestinian cabinet in May 2003 headed by Mahmoud Abbas, Dahalan was appointed defense minister. He formed a joint apparatus combining the West Bank and Gaza Strip branches of the PSF relieving Manasra from his job. Being a Gaza resident, Dahalan faces difficulties asserting his authority on the PSF in the West Bank and it is yet to be seen whether he succeeds in uniting the two branches under one command.
General Intelligence (Mukhabbarat Al-Amma)
The General Intelligence is the PA’s official intelligence body specializing mainly in counter-insurgency and the hunt of collaborators with Israel. It is also involved in intelligence gathering outside the territories, counter-espionage operations and developing relations with other foreign intelligence bodies.
The organization’s size is estimated to be 1,000 men, many of whom are highly experienced intelligence agents who worked at the PLO headquarters in Tunis prior to the establishment of the PA. In addition, there are up to 2,000 informers and unofficial employees who render various services to the General Intelligence.
The General Intelligence is headed by Maj. Gen. Amin al-Hindi, who was involved in the 1972 massacre of the Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympics. He disappeared after the attack and emerged 22 years later as the commander of the General Intelligence. But the more visible man in the organization is the West Bank director Tawfik Tirawi, who since the beginning of the intifada, is known to have been involved in organizing civil disobedience as well as numerous terror attacks.
On September 1, 2001, the General Intelligence organization suffered a severe blow with the death of al-Hindi’s deputy, Colonel Taisir Khatab. He was reportedly assassinated by an unknown Palestinian organization calling itself the Martyr Bilal al-Ghoul Group.
In June 2002 Tirawi was forced to resign due to personal dispute with Arafat.
Military Intelligence (Astkhabbarat Al-Ashkarim)
A smaller intelligence body of 500-600 men, is headed by Mussa Arafat, Yasser Arafat’s nephew. The Military Intelligence is a preventive apparatus, which deals mainly with arrests and interrogations of opposition activists who might endanger the stability of the regime. This body also investigates some of the illegal actions carried out by other intelligence and security bodies. The Military Intelligence is also involved in intelligence gathering in and on Israel. In addition, it arbitrates in the occasional feuds between the different security forces.
Unlike former Gaza Preventive Security Service chief Mohammed Dahlan, who used to be a Fatah leader, or Palestinian Intelligence chief Amin al-Hindi, who earned his reputation as a PLO fighter, Mussa Arafat has very little popular support. His power is mainly derived from his special relationship with Yasser Arafat. On several occasions his unit was involved in fighting, ending up with casualties, with other Palestinian armed bodies. In 1998, Mussa Arafat’s men raided the Tanzim office in Ramallah, accidentally killing one Tanzim activist. In other incidents, they fired at the Chairman of the Tanzim in the West Bank, Marwan Barghouti, and few of his associates, thus causing great tension with the local population. In July 2001, the Military Intelligence was involved in armed clashes with members of Hamas and the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees following the arrests of some of the Committees’ men.
This is a subordinate body to the Military Intelligence which specializes in riot control, arrests, protection of VIPs and important installations, maintenance of prisons and enforcement of order and discipline among the security bodies. The military police is the PA’s ceremonial force and Arafat’s guard of honor upon his arrival and departure form Gaza.
Special Security Force (Amn Al-Khatz) (SSF)
The Special Security Force was established in January 1995 and works under Arafat’s direct supervision. Its official objective is to gather information about the activities of opposition groups in foreign countries, especially Arab ones, but its actual function is to spy on the PA’s other security services. The SSF supplies Arafat with information about cases of corruption and illegal actions of PA officials. It is the smallest of the organizations, numbering several dozen, and headed by Muhammad Natur who is very close to Arafat.
Coast Guard (Shurta Bahariyya)
The official objective of the Coast Guard is the protection of the PA’s territorial water mainly against arms and drug smugglers from Egypt. It owned 13 motorboats equipped with machine guns, all of them were destroyed by the IDF. Most of the members are foreign recruits who used to belong to the Fatah naval unit abroad. They are trained in diving and underwater sabotage. The unit is deployed mainly in Gaza and consists of about 600 men in Gaza and 400 in the West Bank. What is the use of hundreds of seamen in the West Bank which has no access to the sea? Upon their arrival to the PA areas, the soldiers of the Coast Guard, who had received special commando training in Egypt, made the unit highly valuable and able to deal with dangerous challenges. As an elite unit, the Coast Guard in the West Bank is responsible for the protection of prisons and other important installations. But the capture of the Karine-A revealed another role to the Coastal Guard: facilitating arms smuggling operations via sea into the PA. The captain of the Karine-A, a colonel in the Coastal Guard, demitted in his interrogation that the organization took part is several smuggling schemes under orders from Arafat’s associates. The Israeli response to these findings was decisive. The Coastal Guard was prohibited from conducting operations in PA water, its maritime equipment was destroyed and its members are currently restricted to operations on the ground. The Coastal Guard is presently headed by Gamaa Ghali and the West Bank component is commanded by Abu-Zaki.
Aerial Police (Shurta Al-Joya)
The aerial police is a rudimentary aerial unit based on “Force 14”, Fatah’s aviation unit, responsible for operating and maintaining what used to be a small fleet of five helicopters, used mainly for Arafat’s and other VIP’s transportation. The unit numbers several dozen and is commanded by Shukri Tabet. In addition, there