Friday, July 15, 2005

A Disaster Waiting To Happen

Note from Laura: I wrote the following article on Wednesday of this week for release this weekend. However, the headlines this morning have convinced me to go ahead and release it early.

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

In just a few short weeks, the government of Israel plans to pull its citizens out of Gaza, and turn over Gaza to the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have agreed that security within Gaza will be handled by the security forces of the Palestinian authority.

Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Muhamad Dahlan reiterated the security arrangements in a statement on Voice of Palestine radio, the official radio station of the Palestinian Authority, on Monday:

In statements to reporters following his meeting with a delegation representing HAMAS leadership in the Governorate of Gaza today, Civil Affairs Minister Muhamad Dahlan, in charge of the Israeli withdrawal file, said that the anticipated Israeli withdrawal from the governorates of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is a national issue and not an issue that concerns only one faction. He explained that the Palestinian security forces will be in charge of security and order during and after the withdrawal.

But what kind of “security” and “law enforcement” will these “security forces” of the Palestinian Authority provide?

In most western countries, becoming a member of law enforcement is contingent upon passing a stringent background check. Individuals with a criminal record are routinely screened out of the hiring process in the early stages.

Yet in an Arabic-language statement aired on the Ramallah Voice of Palestine on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority Cabinet Secretary General Samir Hulaylah noted that the problem facing the PA of fugitives and wanted persons had almost been resolved. The statement said the following:

Cabinet Secretary General Samir Hulaylah said the fugitives and wanted persons problem is nearly over, noting that most of them have been incorporated into the security services.

In statements to the press, Hulaylah said work is currently underway to solve the problem of those wanted in the Gaza Governorates, after having finalized the issue in Nabulus, Janin, and Bethlehem.

Palestinian Authority officials have acknowledged that they expect problems in the wake of the Israeli pullout. The following clip, translated from Arabic, from the Voice of Palestine, contains a statement from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Interior and National Security which acknowledges that there are Islamist groups which are expected to post security risks:

Tawfiq Abu-Khusah, spokesman for the Interior Ministry and National Security, stressed that the ministry will take strict measures against outlaws and violators of the Cairo national consensus agreement.

Speaking to our radio station this morning, Abu-Khusah said that the Islamic Jihad Movement informed the PA of its commitment to the Cairo dialogue and the calm, noting that there are groups in the Islamic Movement that do not abide by the decision of their leadership and that these groups might be commanded through other external channels.

A poll taken in Gaza by the Al Quds newspaper, a pro-Palestinian published in Jerusalem, shows that Gaza residents do not have a high level of trust in the Palestinian security forces. According to the Al Quds newspaper:

The results of a public opinion poll by the Al-Mustaqbal Studies Center show that a majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip do not feel that they are personally secure or that their family is secure, holding the security apparatuses primarily responsible for the security lawlessness.

Some 74.8% said they feel insecure for themselves and their families in light of the security lawlessness which is being led by the PA apparatuses; 17.9% said they feel secure; and 6.7% said they do not know. Some 67.9% of the respondents said the security apparatuses are responsible for the security lawlessness, 23.5% said the Israeli occupation; 16% said Fatah; 5.3% said HAMAS; 3.9% said Islamic Jihad; and 2.4% said the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Palestinian society seems to hold everyone responsible for the security lawlessness, although the degree of blame varies from one party to another.

Therefore, it demands that everyone bear responsibility but particularly the PA, which it holds primarily responsible.

Some 24.5% of respondents were satisfied with the PA's dealing with the security lawlessness, while 66.9% were dissatisfied.

In a statement on Voice of Palestine that speaks volumes about the anticipated security problems, the PA Ministry of Interior and National Security warned residents about the danger of mortar shells and missiles:

The Ministry of Interior and National Security has called on all national and Islamic forces to shoulder their responsibility and adhere to calm.

The ministry said in a statement that irresponsible acts by some groups would result in doubling material and human losses among citizens.

The ministry warned against the danger of shells and rockets that occasionally fall on citizens' houses, harming children and women in their houses and inflicting losses on citizens only.

Public trust in the PA security apparatus is very low, the authorities are clearly concerned about Islamist factions over which they have no control, and the security forces have absorbed many criminals and terrorists into their ranks.

As the date rapidly approaches for the Israelis to turn over Gaza to the Palestinians, it is becoming more and more apparent that a security nightmare is looming, that will almost inevitably result in the loss of many civilian lives and a further escalation of tensions between the Palestinians and Israel.

Afterward: This morning, CNN is reporting the following:

A day after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed an Israeli woman, at least six more rockets were launched into Israel from northern Gaza Friday, Israeli military sources said, while violence between the militants and Palestinian security forces brought a state of emergency to the territories.

The Palestinian security forces are not capable of maintaining order in Gaza. I must reiterate that the Israeli pullout must be postponed, if not cancelled completely.



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