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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The Palestinian Authority Is Losing Control of the Jenin Region

Filed under: Palestinians

The Palestinian Authority Is Losing Control of the Jenin Region
Armed Jenin supporters of Zakaria Zubeidi gathered outside a Palestinian Authority facility (Screenshot).

The Israeli security establishment is concerned with the weakening of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Jenin area and its inability to control the anarchy.

Hamas is breathing down the PA’s neck, and Israeli security officials warn, that in the end, there will be no escape from a major IDF military operation in the Jenin area.

Jenin map
Jenin is located in the north of the West Bank. (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2009)

The PA’s operation to collect illegal weapons and arrest wanted suspects in the Jenin area has run into significant difficulties, Israeli security sources say: “They are unable to control what is happening on the ground, and the alienation between the PA and the population in the Jenin area is only getting worse.”

On January 7, 2022, the security situation in the Jenin area escalated after Palestinian security personnel beat three young Palestinians with clubs. [Video.1]  One of the arrested teens was Mohammed Zubeidi, the son of Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who is held in high respect in the Jenin area, and was among the six prisoners who escaped Israel’s Gilboa prison through their “Freedom Tunnel” last September.

Mohammed Zubeidi
Mohammed Zubeidi after his release (Twitter)

The PA security forces’ motive for the attack and arrest of the three is unclear, but the incident provoked outrage among the residents of Jenin and increased tensions between the security forces and the armed groups in the city.

The streets of Jenin interpreted the arrest as part of the security coordination between the PA and the Israeli General Security Agency (Shabak) and the campaign to exact revenge against Zakaria Zubeidi for escaping from an Israeli prison.

Palestinian cartoon
“The occupied West Bank” is written above the revolving door in this Palestinian cartoon. (Facebook, December 11, 2021)2

In response to the incident, Palestinian militants opened fire and detonated explosive devices at the Mukata’a building in Jenin, which serves as the PA’s provincial headquarters. A few hours later, the three, including Mohammed Zubeidi, were released.

According to sources in Jenin, the PA Governor Akram Rajoub was in contact with representatives of the armed groups in the city, following the tensions in the city. The ceasefire agreement included the following clauses:

  1. Stop live shooting at the Mukata’a building in Jenin.
  2. Open a formal investigation into the circumstances of the arrest and beating of Mohammed Zubeidi.
  3. Stop the phenomenon of armed and wanted men appearing in the city, and in return, the PA not detain them.
  4. Stop the incitement against the PA on social networks.

This agreement lasted less than a few hours.

The next day, Jenin’s governor Akram Rajoub told the Palestinian media that “dark forces” (alluding to Hamas) were inciting Palestinian society.

He called the shooting at the Mukata’a building in Jenin “a crime serving the occupation,” condemned the attack on Muhammad Zubeidi, and said that those who violated the orders among the security personnel would be punished.

The guard tower at the Jenin Mukata’a after a night of shooting
The guard tower at the Jenin Mukata’a after a night of shooting. (Abu Ali Express)

Governor Rajoub promised that those who fired live ammunition at the Mukata’a building would be punished and announced that “the PA will continue to pursue perpetrators and those who shoot in the air.”

In response to the governor’s remarks, senior Hamas operative, Khaled al-Haj said that his organization had nothing to do with the recent events in Jenin and that the organization’s position held that “harming Palestinian institutions is a crime, and the administrative arrests and humiliation of people are a greater crime.”

Israel’s Reactions

The Israeli security establishment is very concerned about the situation in the Jenin area and the PA’s inability to impose order and deal with the phenomenon of armed groups and illegal weapons.

After Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his home in Rosh Ha’ayin on December 28, 2021, senior security officials revealed that the IDF was close to launching a large-scale military operation in the city of Jenin, but ultimately held back. IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said in closed talks that instead, Israel had spurred the PA’s security forces to enter the city of Jenin and had arrested many operatives and seized weapons.

Residents of Jenin mocked the chief of staff’s remarks. The city of Jenin has become the West Bank “terror capital” in recent years, and it seems that the PA, despite its efforts so far, is unable to control the security situation in the area.

The atmosphere towards the PA is very hostile. The residents claim that it abuses the families of the security prisoners and the “martyrs,” while the sons of senior PA officials enjoy a good life and various benefits.

According to senior Israeli security officials, if the PA does not straighten out the chaos quickly and control the security anarchy in the Jenin area, the IDF will be forced to “clean up” through a large-scale military operation.

The PA continues to lose its domination on the ground. Hamas is breathing down its neck and encouraging the unrest that may also radiate to other areas of the West Bank.

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