While Hamas and Fatah have made progress in their reconciliation agreement in Gaza, the deal does not seem to apply to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. In recent weeks, PA security forces have been arresting Hamas members, some of them top personnel of the terror group.
A report in Yediot Acharonot said that in October, during the height of the talks between Hamas and Fatah on arranging for the re-establishment of the latter as the civil authority in Gaza, at least 50 Hamas terrorists were arrested by PA police in Yehudah and Shomron. In addition to those, the PA forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas arrested another 130 terrorists from other groups, including Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front. If anything, the report said, the pace of arrests has increased over the past month.
According to the report, the PA has been coordinating its arrests with Israel, which has also been nightly arresting terrorists from Islamic Jihad and Hamas. The report quoted Israeli security officials as saying that the arrests by the PA were meant to stress to Hamas that despite the Gaza reconciliation, the PA did not intend to give the Gaza terror group an opportunity to take control of PA-controlled areas in Yehudah and Shomron.
PA police last week took control for the first time in over a decade of the border crossings into and out of Gaza, on the Gaza side of the border. The transition from Hamas to PA control is a central tenet of the reconciliation agreement between the Hamas and Fatah terror groups, engineered and finalized by Egypt last month after years of starts and stops.
For Gazans, the main impact will be at crossings into Sinai, from where they can travel to Egypt or other countries. However, those who regularly cross into Egypt may not notice any change at all; a report in Haaretz quoted Gaza sources as saying that Fatah does not have enough personnel on the ground in Gaza yet, so at least initially the crossings will still be manned by Hamas members. PA officials said they expected all services to be handled by PA officers within the next two weeks.
Commenting on the PA deployment at the Gaza crossing points, United States Mideast negotiator Jason Greenblatt said that the U.S. “welcomed” the changes. “The United States will be following developments in Gaza closely, while working together with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and international donors to try to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza. As we’ve made clear in the past, any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the State of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements.”