Palestinian security agencies await pro-U.S. leadership

Friday, April 4, 2003

RAMALLAH The security agencies of the Palestinian Authority have been steadily deteriorating.

The largest and best-equipped security agency in the West Bank has been the Preventive Security Apparatus. Palestinian sources said the PSA has suspended most of its investigative and law-enforcement work, particularly in the area of quelling Islamic unrest, Middle East Newsline reported.

The PSA, which at one point had a membership of more than 3,000 officers, has been plagued by an absence of leadership, the sources said. They said most of the officer corps has not recognized the authority of Zuheir Manasra, who replaced Jibril Rajoub nearly a year ago. Rajoub was regarded as close to Israel and the United States.

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"Senior officers are convinced that Rajoub will return and don't want Manasra to get comfortable," a security source close to the PSA said. "So, nobody does anything."

Palestinian sources said security agencies responsible for the West Bank are on the verge of collapse. They said commanders have not been provided with clear orders by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat while discipline is poor and salaries remain uncertain.

The General Intelligence has also been paralyzed by lack of command, the sources said. The agency is headed by Col. Tawfiq Tirawi, wanted by Israel for a series of attacks on civilians. Tirawi has taken refuge in Arafat's compound in Ramallah.

At one point, Tirawi ordered his forces to arrest suspected Hamas insurgents in an attempt to win favor with Israel, the sources said. The Hamas suspects were later released.

The sources said many security officers have taken second jobs and serve as bodyguards or members of crime gangs throughout the West Bank.

They said the General Intelligence received a large amount of money from Iraq for a range of insurgency activities.

Arafat has not intervened in the affairs of the security agencies. But sources said he has insisted that funds by donor nations meant to pay the salaries of the security services be transferred to his office. PA Finance Minister Salam Fayyad has refused and insists that salaries would be paid directly into the bank accounts of security personnel.

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