Eighty-ninth edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Sat, 04 Dec 2004 11:10:03 +0000)

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Intelligence profile: Palestinian authority

Background

The Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (DOP), signed in Washington on 13 Sept 1993, provided for a transitional period not exceeding five years of Palestinian interim self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Under the DOP, Israel agreed to transfer certain powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority, which includes the Palestinian Legislative Council elected in January 1996, as part of the interim self-governing arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A transfer of powers and responsibilities for the Gaza Strip and Jericho took place pursuant to the Israel-PLO 4 May 1994 Cairo Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area and in additional areas of the West Bank pursuant to the Israel-PLO 28 September 1995 Interim Agreement, the Israel-PLO 15 Jan 1997 Protocol Concerning Redeployment in Hebron, the Israel-PLO 23 Oct 1998 Wye River Memorandum, and the 4 September 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement. The DOP provides that Israel will retain responsibility during the transitional period for external and internal security and for public order of settlements and Israeli citizens. Direct negotiations to determine the permanent status of Gaza and West Bank that began in September 1999 after a three-year hiatus, were derailed by a second intifadah that broke out in September 2000. The resulting widespread violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel's military response, and instability within the Palestinian Authority continue to undermine progress toward a permanent agreement.

General

Country name: Palestina

Consisting of the self-governing areas West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Qita Ghazzah)

Military branches

In accordance with the peace agreement, the Palestinian Authority is not permitted conventional military forces; there are, however, a Public Security Force and a civil Police Force.

Security & intelligence

The situation within the Palestine Authority is unclear and complicated. The Palestine security forces are composed of many agencies that mostly operate independently. Nearly all of them reported directly to Arafat but there are also a number of militias that are not subordinated to the Palestinian Authority.

Earlier this year the Palestinian Authority announced a plan to reduce the number of agencies and to integrate all agencies that serve the interests of security into three main bodies. The Preventive Security Services, Police Forces and Civil Defense will report to the Ministry of Interior, while the Mukhabarat and Public Security would report directly to Arafat. It is however not clear if this is going to happen now that Arafat is no longer in charge.

The situation before Arafat's death is as follows.

Agencies that report directly to the President are:

Agencies that report to the Ministry of Interior:

Al-Amal-Khass (Special Security Force - SSF)

SSF was formed in January 1995. It's mission is to gather information on opposition groups in other Arab countries.

Al-Amn al-Ri’asah (Presidential Security)

Originally named "Force 17" in the 1970's it was founded to provide security for the PLO and President Arafat. The group was involved in many terrorist attacks against Israel. When Arafat moved to Palestine, Force 17 merged into the Presidential Security force.

The Presidential Security force carries out security operations in conjunction with the National Security Force. Other duties are counter- terrorism and anti-opposition activities.

Mukhabbarat al-Amma (General Intelligence)

The Mukhabbarat is the primary intelligence agency of the Palestinian Authority. Its main objectives are domestic and foreign intelligence-gathering, and counter-espionage.

Al-Difa’a al-Madani (Civil Defense)

This body was established to manage emergency situations. Its tasks are fire control, rescue operations and casualty evacuation.

Quwat al-Amn al-Watani (National Security Force - NSF)

This force is the largest security service of the Palestine Authority. Maintaining the security of Palestinian-controlled areas is its first responsibility.

Al-Amn al-Wiqa’i (Preventive Security Service)

One of the most powerful of the security services, the Preventive Security Service is an undercover, secret police-type operation. The PSS is supposed to be a police force but many newspaper articles indicate otherwise. The organisation looks more like an army then a police force. According to analysts the PSS was formed to prevent terror but it turned into an organisation that supports and assists it. The agency has been criticized by human rights activists at home and abroad.

Al-Shurta Madaniyya (Civil Police)

The Civil Police carry out day-to-day policing and lead a special rapid-deployment team to handle riots and execute counter-terrorism operations.

Istkhabbarat al-Askariyya (Military Intelligence)

The Istkhabbarat is a preventive body that deals mainly with arrests and interrogations of opposition activists who might endanger the stability of the regime. This body also investigates some of the illegal actions of the Palestinian Authority's other intelligence and security bodies. The Military Police is said to be attached to Military Intelligence.

Shurta Bahariyya (Coast Guard)

The Shurta Bahariyya is an elite unit deployed in Gaza. Its task is to protect the sea cost of the Palestinian Authority and prevent smuggling. It operates a number of patrol boats.

Shurta al-Jawiya (Aerial Police)

The Shurta al-Jawiya is based on Force 14, Fatah's aviation unit. The unit is mainly used for the transportation of the President and other Palestinian leaders. It operates a couple of helicopters.

Al-Amn al-Mahafza (County Guard)

The al-Amn al-Mahafza is a unit that supplies security services to the county governors and their offices.

Sources:


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