Several perpetrators of terror attacks against Israelis in the current wave of violence have been members of the Palestinian Security Services, who have easy access to weapons as well as combat training.
While the IDF Spokesperson’s Office has characterized the average terrorist in the past year’s so-called Knife Intifada as an unpredictable “lone wolf perpetrator” usually between 12 and 30 years of age who is heavily influenced by social and mass media, experts say that there is another profile of attacker that is even more concerning. Palestinian Security Services (PSS) officers have been discovered to have carried out a series of attacks on Israelis in just the last several months.
The PSS are the armed forces and intelligence agencies of the Palestinian Authority (PA). They were established in 1993 as part of the Oslo Accords and through several bilateral agreements between Israel and the PA since Oslo.
“There is a more deadly potential to this type of terrorist,” former Israeli Security Agency (ISA) Section Director Menachem Landau told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “These are not children. They have easy access to automatic firearms and they are trained soldiers with combat skills and planning capabilities,” he explained.
The most recent confirmed incident occurred on Sunday, January 31, when Staff Sergeant Amjad Sakari arrived in his vehicle at a checkpoint near the Jewish community of Beit El and opened fire, wounding three men in their 20s. Sukkari, as it turned out, was a Palestinian police officer who served as the driver and bodyguard for the Ramallah district attorney.
Mazen Ariva, a PA intelligence agency officer, opened fire with his service rifle at a group of Israeli citizens near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev in December 2015. Ariva, who was the nephew of PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, succeeded in lightly wounding an IDF soldier and severely wounding an Israeli Arab civilian.
While these are but two recently confirmed incidents, the IDF censor has confirmed that six attacks have been committed by PSS members since the start of the Knife Intifada five months ago.
The high level of training and planning capability of the PSS was tragically demonstrated on June 19, 2015, when four members of the PSS carried out an attack in Judea and Samaria that claimed the life of 25-year-old hiker Danny Gonen.
The shooter, Muhammed Abu Shaheen, was a member of the elite PSS unit, Force 17. After being captured by the ISA along with his accomplices, Abu Shaheen admitted to the shooting and to several other unsolved cases of deadly terrorist attacks in the past.
According to the Almagor Terror Victims Association, an NGO which documents and chronicles terrorist attacks, the Israeli government itself has provided the PSS with firearms as part of the Oslo Accords. Furthermore, since Oslo, several other weapons-transfer agreements and payments were made between Israel and the PA.
PA General Intelligence Service Director Majid Faraj claimed that the PA has foiled over 200 such armed attacks on Jews and Israelis. “Since the Intifada began, we have arrested over 100 Palestinians and confiscated many firearms. Security coordination with Israel is the only thing keeping the chaos at bay,“ said Faraj in an interview with the American publication Defense News.
A Partnership for Peace?
“A Palestinian police officer armed with a gun he received from the State of Israel, injuring three Israelis, does not represent a real partnership for peace between Israel and the PA,” Yisrael Beiteinu Party Chairman Avigdor Liberman told the Israeli press following the January shooting attack.
According to former ISA Section Director Menachem Landau, a network of cooperation both on the ground and in shared intelligence exists between Israeli security entities and the PA, which has managed to keep the number of these attacks to a minimum or to at least have been alerted to them.
“It is in the best interest of the PA and the PSS to prevent terrorism by persons directly connected to their political system, but the PA’s interest is to preserve an industrial peace, not to preserve Israeli lives,” Landau told TPS.
Others, however, believe that the PA’s interest and cooperation with Israeli security is focused more on hushing up these incidents rather than actually preventing them.
“This little-known phenomenon is not a recent development. Terror attacks have been committed by PSS officials ever since the PSS was established and armed,” Almagor CEO Lt. Col. Meir Indor (ret.) told TPS.
“Since we started documenting attacks in the ’90s, we have recorded numerous terrorist attacks carried out by PSS members,” Indor said.
“However, we can only take into account cases in which the attackers have been caught or identified and in which the IDF censor has allowed it to be made public that they were PSS officials. There are potentially more such incidents that we do not know about that were actually committed by the PSS,” he added.
The IDF and Ministry of Defense refused to comment or to provide further information on the subject.
By: Michael Zeff/TPS