Terms like “intelligence”, “security” and “police” as applied to Yasser Arafat’s law and order organs of government are but cynical euphemisms for a realm administered on the lines of a medieval fief structured for one function: the practice of terrorism.
Arafat’s kingdom of terrorism falls into four provinces, whose capitals are Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron on the West Bank and Khan Yunis and Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Ramallah, once popular among Israelis for its smart shops, discotheques and restaurants, is the leader. No Israeli will now venture into a town associated with the brutalities wrought by Marwan Bargouti and his Tanzim militia in the last five months: a series of brutal lynching of Israelis who chanced there, the bombings of Jerusalem’s open air market and other neighborhoods, the drive-by shootings and ambushes of roads and highways at the northern limits of Jerusalem, running past the Atarot industrial zone, Bir Zeit and the settlements of Bethel and Ofra.
Bargouti is the senior provincial warlord, but his Tanzim is challenged for supremacy in Ramallah by the Al Amri and Kalandiya Tanzim, personally owned by Yasser Arafat. This group shot dead guards at the East Jerusalem National Insurance Institute last October.
A third Ramallah group, calling itself an intelligence service, is run by Mussa Arafat, Yasser’s brother and carried out the murder of the Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum from Ashkelon last month, by luring him to the scene over the Internet.
When the Israeli chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz accused the Palestinian authority of “converting itself into a terrorist entity” on Wednesday, Feb. 28, he had plenty of evidence to prove that Arafat himself and other Palestinian Authority members not only egged the terrorists on, but actually assigned them their operations.
Nablus is the second largest terrorist capital of the West Bank. Its “City Police” is officially commanded by the deputy mayor Gassan Shak’a, but the governor of Nablus, Mahmoud El-Aloul, is the real operations commander. This force controls the city, dozens of surrounding villages up to the foothills of the biblical mountains of Eval and Gerizim, the environs of the Israeli settlements of Elon More and Kedumim and all the land up to the fringes of the Jordan Rift Valley. It is the best organized of any West Bank militia; ample funds from the rich clans of the city support 600 slickly uniformed patrolmen who drive around in well-maintained jeeps. Their operational command, hierarchy and signaling network are copied from the Israeli army’s regional defense system.
Bargouti tried to move into Nablus before giving up. He only managed to gain a toehold in the form of a small terrorist militia headed by Amin Makboul, which is too scared of the Shak’a outfit to do much. A more powerful group is the Balata refugee camp Tanzim commanded by Hussam Haddar, which seized and razed Joseph’s Tomb after Israeli troops pulled out last October. The hard core of the Balata Tanzim is a ruthless, radical bunch, who are jealous of their independence, hate Arafat, Bargouti and Shak’a, and are influential in many villages around Nablus, the Beisan and the Jordanian Rift Valleys.
Yet Another Nablus Tanzim militia whose chief is Issam Abu Baker is directly subordinate to Arafat on the same pattern as Ramallah.
Nablus, aside from accommodating this hotbed of warring militias, is also the seat of Tawfiq Tirawi, commander of the West Bank Palestinian police force. Tirawi takes his orders from General Muhamed Hindi and his Gaza-based “General Security Apparatus”. Snipers and ambush squads run by the pair
terrorize Israel’s traffic on the Jerusalem-Modi’in Highway 443 and often direct fire from Jenin, Kalkilya and Tulkarm on Israeli civilians and passing motorists. Most recently, Tirawi-Hindi gunmen opened fire from Tulkarem on a road gang working on the Trans-Israel Highway, injuring the security guard. Earlier this month, the same group murdered two Tel Aviv restaurateurs shopping in Tulkarm.
These militiamen are trained and ready in a general flareup to extend their operations to the heavily populated Modiin, Re’uth, Shoham and Afeq, as well as bring Israel’s international airport at Lod under attack.
Also active in Nablus are the local Islamic radical Hamas and Jihad Islami (outlawed this week in the United Kingdom) and splinters dedicated to violence, like the pro-Syrian Baath and members of the George Habash Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
In the Bethlehem “province” on the West Bank, twenty minutes drive south of Jerusalem, terrorist activity is masterminded by Arafat’s own Fatah under Kemal Hamad, who takes his orders and is funded by Tawfiq Tirawi in Nablus. His guns began the nightly shooting some months ago against the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo from the neighboring village of Beit Jallah, together with the gunfire bedeviling the “Tunnel Highway” from Jerusalem to the south and the Gush Etzion cluster of settlements. The Gilo offensive has since been taken over by local Palestinian Police officers and independent groups operating in the area, mainly from the Ayda refugee camp, essentially holdup gangs who collect protection money from local businessmen and run extortion rackets.
The population of Hebron, south of Bethlehem, stands out from other West Bank towns as more pious, poor and reclusive. It is dominated by two strong terrorist groups: Bargouti’s Tanzim, commanded by Jemal Shawbaki and a branch of Arafat’s Fatah movement headed by the Fatah secretary general Abbas Zaki, who is a prominent and respected member of the Palestinian Authority. The two groups collaborate in such operations as shooting attacks on the Jewish quarters of Hebron and gunfire and bomb attacks in the general vicinity of Mount Hebron.
The only town under Palestinian administration with no terrorist group of its own is Gaza. Arafat and his “security” chiefs were very careful to keep the warring terrorist groups at arm’s length from their seat of power. The Palestinian “preventive security” services under Mohamed Dahlan and Mohamed Hindi are Arafat’s protective shield and his obedient minions. The guns and bombs of their men plague the Gaza Strip settlements of Netzarim and Gush Katif and Israeli army outposts day and night. often crossing the “Green Line” into Israel to lay roadside bombs on the roads round Kisufim and Nahal Oz. Arafat’s “security” organizations also orchestrated the bomb strikes in the town centers of Israel’s coastal cities of Hadera, Netanya and Tel Aviv. Their tight control of the Gaza Strip has pushed dissident Palestinian elements to its southern fringes of Khan Yunis and Rafah. There, a strange mix of some 2,500 anti-Arafat dissidents, radical Hamas and Jihad Islami militants, and members of dozens of independent factions and criminal elements, co-exist violently. Abu Samadana rules the most violent of these gangs, which are the source of the heavy fire trained on the Israeli settlements of the southern Gaza Strip and the Israeli army posts strung along the Israel-Egyptian frontier of Sinai. Arafat claims he has no control over the Khan Yunis-Rafah gangs, but someone pays them to smuggle quantities of weapons for the Palestinian Authority from the Egyptian side of the Sinai frontier.
Arafat’s kingdom of terror puts around 12,000 men under arms at his disposal. That is a huge force, matched in size only by the marauder armies loose in such lawless corners of the world as Albania, Kosovo, Chechenya or Afghanistan. It was not built in a day – or even in the five months of the Palestinian uprising against Israel. Assisted by his “security” chiefs, he has been assembling his vast enterprise piece by piece ever since he landed in Gaza in 1994 fresh from signing the Oslo Peace Framework Accords with Israel. Work on perfecting the mechanisms of terror goes on, and Arafat can now boast the finest terrorist organization in the world after Osama Bin Laden’s Qaeda.
Because the Palestinian governing administration is custom-made and geared for the instigation and performance of terrorist acts, attempts to negotiate a peaceful settlement – or even to reach ad hoc security coordination – with that body and its officers are doomed to fail. This the defeated Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak discovered to his discomfiture. Incoming prime minister, Ariel Sharon, will face the same dilemmas as his predecessor. He was elected by a massive majority against his pledge to make life safe to every Israeli, a pledge he repeated this week. In practical terms, he may find that talking to Arafat is a waste of time; he will have to address the local chieftains, either to deactivate them and their fighting machines or talks terms with them.