At a time when Hamas threatens more terror activity against targets throughout Israel, it may be instructive to note the extent to which the Palestine Authority directly licenses arms for the Hamas instead of confiscating their weapons. The Cairo Accord, signed between the Israeli government and Arafat on May 4, 1994, created strict regulations for firearm possession in the PA, in an attempt to minimize terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinian groups and individuals opposed to the Oslo Accords. Arafat agreed to restrict the possession of firearms by ordering the PA to take three steps: disarm militias, confiscate weapons, and issue gun licenses for pistols only to individuals demonstrating a need for them, and only with Israel’s consent. However, Arafat and the PA have yet to implement that agreement, perpetuating a situation in which the ability of groups and individuals to carry out terrorist attacks remains undiminished.
The PA took no action for eleven months. However, in April 1995, following the Islamic Jihad terror attack near Cfar Darom which took the lives of six Israelis and one American, the PA announced a May, 1995 deadline for turning in illegal weapons. Yet by the appointed deadline, very few civilians had turned only a few dozen weapons. IDF Lieut. Col. Shabak confirmed the Palestinian police had only confiscated a few weapons at the deadline. These numbers pale in comparison to the total number of unlicensed weapons in the PA area of jurisdiction, which, while unknown, were estimated by Arafat himself as early as March 1995 to be more than 26,000.
Five militias under the PA’s jurisdiction remain armed: Fatah Hawks, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, and DFLP. Not only has the PA refrained from taking steps to disarm these groups, while high ranking officials continue to state their refusal to do so.
Shortly after the agreement was signed, Col. Jibril Rajoub, head of Arafat’s Preventive Security Service said, “We sanctify the weapons found in the possession of the national factions which are directed against the occupation.” Echoing this sentiment only a year later, Freih Abu Middein, Palestinian Minister of Justice, said the Palestinian police would not disarm Hamas or Islamic Jihad. A senior Hamas official confirmed that the PA had not demanded their disarmament, saying that “the PA is not asking us to disarm, just to report to it.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Liberation Army police force continued to issue licenses for automatic weapons and gun permits to well known members of terrorist organizations. Both Shabak and the Palestinian Police commander in Gaza, Gen. Ghazi Jabali, confirmed that Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders have received permits to carry weapons, Shabak noting, “most of the permits issued thus far have been given to members of the opposition parties.” Shabak also acknowledged that some of these permits were for “light automatic weapons,” a statement confirmed by the Palestinian Minister of Information. As if to allay fears, the PA Minister of Justice, Abu Medein said that he had received assurances that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad members would “keep their weapons at home.”
The issue is not whether or not Arafat turns on or off “green lights” for the Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. Quietly and seemingly unknown to the Israeli public, Arafat has heavily armed both terror groups, and they will decide when and how to use their weapons against Israeli targets.
Why does the Israeli public not know that the Palestine Authority has been issuing weapons to the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, since May, 1995 ? All Israeli media carried the story – but on the back pages and never as a lead item on Israel State TV and Israel State Radio. Nobody wanted to disturb the good news of the peace process. Let alone the momentum.