Source: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy – Special report on “Palestinian security services: between police and army” – November, 1998.

  • As a result of Oslo, the PSS (Palestinian Security Services) was established. The PSS includes many of those from the PLA (Palestinian Liberation Army). Originally, the PSS had 12 branches, but after OSLO II, the branches were decreased to 6.
  • OSLO II only allows the PSS to have 30,000 officers. There could be over 40,000-if this is true, the PA is the most heavily policed territory in the world, 1 officer for every 50 residents, the US ration is 1:400.
  • the PA is accumulating anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons for confrontation with the IDF.
  • the PA is considering making mandatory military service after the OSLO Process is completed in May, 1999. The Palestinian GSS (General Security Service) is responsible for coordinating and maintaining most of the Palestinian security branches and services. (including police and intelligence). According to OSLO, the GSS should be the security service under which all other services operate.

    GSS Security Branches:

    1. National Security Force- 14,000 officers. NSF is responsible for missions along area A and inside. Israeli-Palestinian joint guards. Recruited most of their officers from the PLA and the local areas.
    2. Civil Police-“blue police” They are the main tool of the PA. They handle ordinary police functions. They employee more than 10,000 police officers in the W.Bank and Gaza. Also they have 700 officers in a special rapid-deployment police unit who are trained to handle severe riots and counterterrorism operations. Officers in this unit have received training form the former Soviet Union and therefore these officers train other officers of other units.
    3. Preventative Security Force-5,000 agents, the largest PA intelligence force. They are involved in ‘information gathering in Israel.’ They have received a reputation for violating civil rights, including deaths of tortured detainees.
    4. General Intelligence-the official PA intelligence agency which has 3,000 officers. They are involved in developing relations with other foreign intelligence bodies.
    5. Military Police-they are part of the General Intelligence unit, but they are not officially recognized in the OSLO accords.
    6. Coast Guard-is situated in Gaza and has 1,000 officers. This unit is equipped with 5 motorboats which are supplied with machine guns. Recruits come from the Palestinian Diaspora who previously belonged to the overseas naval unit of Fatah. They receive special commando training.
    7. Aerial Police- is based on Force 14, Fatah’s aviation unit. Responsible for maintaining the PA’s 5 helicopters. This unit is not mentioned in any of the agreements.
    8. Civil Defence-is described in OSLO as ‘Emergency Services and Rescue.’ This unit consists of a fire department and rescue services. They administer programs of first aid and rescue training for civilians.
    9. County Guard-supply security services to county governors and their offices. They summon people for questioning and resolve local quarrels. They are not recognized by any agreements.
    10. GSS

      Arafat created 2 additional services outside of the 1994 Cairo’s Agreement’s definition of GSS-these 2 units are accountable only to Arafat:

      1. Special Security Force (SSF)-was established in Jan 1995, probably the smallest unit. They work under Arafat’s direct supervision. Their main objectives are to gather information about opposition groups in foreign countries (Arab). However, their hidden functions are to collect information on the PA’s other security services and to collect information about corruption and illegal actions by the PA officials.
      2. Presidential Security (al-Amn al-Ri’asah)- has 3,000 officers, many of whom were once members of Force 17, Arafat’s personal security guard while he led the PLO in the Diaspora. According to OSLO II, this unit was supposed to be part of the GSS. Their main objective is to handle counterterrorism, arresting opposition activists, and suspects of collaboration with Israel. Within this unit, there are 2 other units:
        1. An Intelligence Unit-they gather information about the activities of opposition movements and domestic threats.
        2. Personal Guard-these Arafat’s most loyal and trusted inner circle.
  • There are 8 bodies dealing with anti-opposition related activities, causing responsibilities to overlap and therefore clashes and inefficient work occurs- battles over jurisdiction.
  • Arafat has appointed Brig. Gen. Amin al-Hindi as head of his General Intelligence. This man disappeared for a while after his involvement in the 1972 massacre of Israeli Athletes in the Munich Olympics.
  • Arafat has so many security forces because:
    • the PA constantly has to monitor and be aware of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to get rid of the political threat they pose.
    • the PA can inflate the number of security personnel without violating the interim agreement quota because most of his intelligence officers are plainclothes agents who look and dress like civilians.
  • Training: Britain, Austria, Netherlands, Egypt, and Scandinavian nations have all helped to train some of the men. The NSF who works alongside with the IDF is adopting many of the Israeli drills and techniques, disciplinary measures, battle drills, ways to operate radio equipment, and regulations for handling weapons. In 1994 the PSS new officers who were recruited form abroad were not given proper instructions, facilities, etc. Soon enough they became fed up. They were under paid and soon enough corruption set in. These officers began raiding businesses, collecting protection money and using excessive force.

Army or Police Force?


  • The Cairo Agreements first allowed the PA to establish a security that included police and internal security forces. The police is supposed to create public order and internal security. Only 9,000 were allowed to be employed by the security services. The agreed upon number rose to 30,000 by OSLO II. The PA is estimated to have 35,000-50,000 more police officers in different branches in the W.Bank and Gaza.
  • In 1998, the PA gave Israeli Intelligence a list of only 18,600 PSS officers because:
    1. The PA does not want Israel to know the ‘real’ number of officers employed.
    2. The PA does not want Israel to know the officers real identities because some are former terrorists who are wanted by the Israeli government. (Israel is allowed to veto any Palestinian employees who might be a security threat).
  • According to the 1994 Cairo Agreement, the PA is only allowed to have 15,00 weapons. An estimate of the PSS and the Palestinian population as a whole own an approximately 40,000 additional weapons than is allowed by OSLO II.
  • Activities related to preservation of public order in Palestinian cities and in 25 police stationed villages (Area B+) only involve 25% of actual PSS personnel (why is the ratio 1:50).
  • OSLO II does not specify the nature and the quality of the training required for the practice of law enforcement. As a result, the main branches of the PSS have never been properly trained in police work. 75% of the total force is not assigned to any law enforcement duties. 3/4 of the PSS are technically not police officers.


  • the PA emphasizes aggressive patriotism (jihad) and therefore a ‘uniform culture’ has been forged in the territories.
  • During the Summer of 1998, Fatah set up military camps in Gaza that trained young Palestinians in martial arts, handling light weapons, and military drills. The instructors of these camps came from the military intelligence branch of the PSS. The youth who were accepted into the military camps were chosen according to their intelligence, leadership, and their potential to become future commanders.
  • the PSS’s recruitment methods deal more with a persons political affiliation and loyalty to the regime rather than intellectual and leadership abilities. Current monthly salary for an officer is $200.
  • efforts are being made to settle disputes between the PA and Fatah’s faction in Lebanon, so if the peace process breaks down, the PLO fighters in Lebanon will be ready to join in. (Lebanon is the only place where Palestinian soldiers can develop skills in special weapons). Arafat has pledged to help these groups financially. Millions of dollars have been diverted from humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza-to-Lebanon.

During any future conflict:

  • Assumption that Palestinians are stockpiling light anti-armor weapons, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, SAM-7 anti-craft missiles, all which are forbidden under OSLO. PSS has been able to smuggle weapons into the PA across the Dead Sea into the West Bank or across the Mediterranean into Gaza. Or through a secret tunnel that connects from Egypt with Rafah, Gaza.
  • in 1997, the PSS’s need for anti-aircraft shoulder fired missiles became public when a former IDF scout was arrested for stealing a military patrol vehicle loaded with weapons and ammunition. During investigation he admitted that the weapons were ordered by the PSS.
  • Palestinians have been digging anti-tank tunnels and trap-holes under central roads in the West Bank and Gaza. These holes can be filled with explosives to block armored vehicles.
  • For next time, the PA will not restrict their fight only to a military level, but also civilians are to be included.
  • the PA holds self defense lessons for civilians which include: shooting, hand to hand combat, and ceremonial drill.

The Office of the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories: UNSCO

1996-97: UNSCO coordinated bilateral and multilateral training programs for the Palestinian police. A team produced a comprehensive project document for the establishment of a police academy for 400 trainees in Jericho.

1998-99: UNSCO will continue to coordinate training programs for the Palestinian police force.

International Maritime Organization: IMO

1996-97: Since 1996, IMO has been doing regional projects, financed by the European Commission’s LIFE Program for the development of port state control capability in the Mediterranean. The PA is one of the project’s 11 participants. It involves technical assistance and training from other states in the Mediterranean.

1998-99 Proposals formulated:

  • establishment of an independent maritime administration within the Ministry of Transport in order to meet the needs of the proposed sea port and resulting shipping services.
  • establishment of a maritime training program to respond to the future need for maritime officers and engineers.


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.