How the Palestinian Authority helps protect Jewish settlers

Israeli occupation forces search for the alleged shooter in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba near Nablus (Shadi Jarar'ah - APA Images)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  May 7, 2021 

The Palestinian Authority collaborated with Israel to find a person suspected of shooting three Israelis in the occupied West Bank last Sunday, one of them fatally.

This highlights how the PA is helping Israel protect its settlers, while Palestinians continue to be killed and injured by Israeli forces and settlers with impunity.

A Palestinian man identified as Muntasir Shalabi has been accused of carrying out the drive-by shooting at the Tapuah junction near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, known to Palestinians as Zaatara checkpoint.

The three Israelis, all 19 years old, studied at a religious college in Itamar, one of Israel’s colonial settlements built in the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.

One of them, Yehuda Guetta, died from his wounds on Wednesday night.

Shalabi was captured on Wednesday after a four-day manhunt, in a joint operation between Israeli occupation forces, Israeli police and Israel’s domestic spying and torture agency Shin Bet.

An unnamed West Bank resident who identified the suspected shooter, said Shalabi recently returned from the United States where he had been living for several years and had been in financial distress due to gambling, the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz claimed.

Shalabi is an American citizen, Haaretz added.

Israel is already moving to carry out a punitive demolition of Shalabi’s family home in the village of Turmus Ayya, near Ramallah.

Collective punishment of this kind is a war crime that Israel only perpetrates against the families of Palestinians accused of harming Israelis, and never against the families of Israelis who harm Palestinians.

During the Israeli army’s search – which included raids, arrests and attacks on Palestinians – occupation forces fatally shot Said Odeh, a 16-year-old boy in the Nablus-area village of Odala.

Yet while Israeli occupation forces continue to injure and kill Palestinians with near total impunity, the Palestinian Authority is doing all it can to protect Jewish settlers.

PA interrogates wife

On Monday, PA security forces went to the house of Sana Shalabi, the accused shooter’s wife, in Turmus Ayya.

“They came to interrogate me and try to verbally provoke me,” Sana Shalabi told Shehab News Agency.

“They wanted me to give them information and I do not know anything. Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” she added.

The PA raid made Sana Shalabi suspect that Israeli occupation forces would not be far behind.

And that’s exactly what happened.

That night before dawn, dozens of Israeli occupation forces raided the Shalabi home.

She told Shehab News Agency that Israeli forces broke down her door, let loose a military dog on her and her children, and confined them in a room with the dog.

“They destroyed the house and ransacked cupboards,” she added.

They accused her of knowledge and involvement in the shooting, but she said she knew nothing.

After four hours of interrogation, Israeli forces detained her along with her son Ahmad.

They later released her, but kept her son.

Sana Shalabi said that the family has foreign citizenship, though she did not specify which country.

She said she had been in touch with her embassy which told her they were following her son’s case.

According to Shalabi, the embassy acknowledged that her son was being detained by “intelligence” – likely a reference to Shin Bet.

The shooting

Sunday’s drive-by shooting was caught on a surveillance camera.

The video, published by Israeli state broadcaster Kan, shows a silver SUV approaching a white guard shack where people are unloading a car.

Meanwhile, two men are walking towards the shack with an Israeli soldier following them.

The silver vehicle briefly stops in front of the shack and there is a commotion as an apparent shooting happens.

The Israeli soldier then appears to fire towards the vehicle, but it leaves the scene.

PA collaboration

The vehicle suspected of involvement was found in Aqraba, a Palestinian town near Nablus on Monday, local media reported.

Pictures circulated on social media showed PA security forces at the scene in what was likely coordination with Israeli forces looking for the shooter.

The vehicle was reported to have been set on fire by local people shortly afterwards:

Israeli forces had completely sealed off Aqraba since Monday, preventing residents from leaving or entering the town. They even prevented residents from worshipping at a local mosque:

On Wednesday, Israeli occupation forces surrounded a building in Aqraba under the pretext that the suspected shooter was hiding there.

But after at least an hour of surrounding the area and reportedly firing unprovoked gunfire at the building, there turned out to be no one inside.

This behaviour suggests Israeli forces intended to implement the so-called pressure cooker procedure – a form of extrajudicial execution used only against Palestinians.

It involves surrounding a building, firing progressively heavier weapons at it and eventually demolishing it on top of a wanted person inside.

Israeli journalist Ohad Hemo told Israel’s Channel 12 that the PA was working closely with Israeli forces to find the shooter.

“Israel is not working alone, as the PA security forces are working with all their strength around the clock to uncover the identity of the person who carried out the attack,” Hemo said.

An unnamed PA official told The Jerusalem Post that the PA was “determined to prevent any group or individual from carrying out operations that could harm the national interests of the Palestinians.”

The leftist political party the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced the PA’s “persistence in the security coordination approach, which contributes directly or indirectly to pursuing resistance fighters.”

The Palestinian Authority has since its creation in the mid-1990s maintained close cooperation with Israeli occupation forces, under the banner of “security coordination.”

This plays a primary role in suppressing Palestinian protest and resistance to Israel’s military occupation, and is the main reason why the United States and European countries have been willing to fund the PA.

The PA’s subordinate role is built into the Oslo accords under which it was created.

In the areas of the occupied West Bank where the PA has nominal control, Palestinian forces are only allowed to arrest other Palestinians. They cannot touch Israeli soldiers or settlers who attack Palestinians.

This means in practice that the PA exists to protect Israel and its settlers, and to police Palestinians on Israel’s behalf.

Israel, meanwhile, maintains the right to act as it pleases against Palestinians wherever they are in the name of “security.”

Thus the PA was created as an extension of the occupation, especially to obtain information on suspected activists or anyone who might engage in armed resistance.

Under one of the agreements, the PA is even required to inform Israel about any Palestinian who is treated in a Palestinian hospital due to an injury from a weapon or explosive, or who dies from “unnatural causes.”

PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has called this collaboration with the occupation “sacred.”

Nonetheless, from time to time he threatens to suspend it – likely to mollify Palestinian public opinion.

But the PA’s recent enthusiasm to aid Israeli forces may be a signal to the Biden administration that the PA is as keen as ever to serve Israel’s needs.

PA leaders likely see this as essential to persuading Washington to restart the flow of aid money that the Trump administration froze in 2018.

Human Rights Watch called on the PA to “cease all security coordination with the Israeli army that contributes to facilitating the crimes of apartheid and persecution.”

This came in its April report calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for apartheid.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah contributed analysis.