Mandate and effectiveness of police forces in the Occupied Territories [PAL43051.FE]

Mandate of the Palestinian Police Force (PPF)

Country Reports 2003 indicated that the PPF includes the following groups:

- Palestinian Presidential Security Force
- Preventive Security Force (PSF)
- Palestinian Public Security Force
- Palestinian Civil Police
- Palestinian Coastal Police
- General Intelligence Service, or Mukhabarat (25 Feb. 2004, "The Occupied Territories," Intro.).

Country Reports 2003 also indicated that the Military Intelligence organization "exercised de facto law enforcement powers" (25 Feb. 2004, "The Occupied Territories," Intro.). "Palestinian police were responsible for security and law enforcement for Palestinians and other non-Israelis in PA [Palestinian Authority]-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip" (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, "The Occupied Territories," Intro.). Israeli settlers did not fall under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian police (ibid.).

On 9 August 2004, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds indicated that the PPF was working on a plan to ensure public safety and to protect public institutions. According to the Palestinian police chief, Sa'ib al-Ajiz, "we will work to enforce the law and carry out court rulings to prevent chaos" (Al-Quds 9 Aug. 2004).

Two sources recently announced that the Jordanian and Egyptian governments were each going to train 45 Palestinian police officers (AFP 9 Aug. 2004; UPI 20 Sept. 2004).

Furthermore, the International Crisis Group (ICG) pointed out that there is no municipal police force in the West Bank (28 Sept. 2004).

Effectiveness of the PPF

In a report entitled Who Governs the West Bank? Palestinian Administration Under Israeli Occupation, the ICG indicates that chaos is growing in the occupied territories and that the legal authority of the PA is diminishing quickly (28 Sept. 2004). For example, in January 2002, the Israeli army arrested several members of Yasser Arafat's police force in order to weaken its power (Manchester Guardian 9 Jan. 2002). In addition, lawlessness is becoming common in Nablus, where the mayor resigned because of the lack of PA support for the legal authorities (ICG 28 Sept. 2004). Jericho is the only Palestinian city with a functioning police (ibid.).

According to the ICG, the strength of the Palestinian police is related to the PA's condition and varies from one region to another (ibid.). For example, in Jericho, Bethlehem and Ramallah/El Bireh, the police forces are stronger than they are in Hebron, Nablus or Jenin (ibid.). Agence France Presse (AFP) pointed out on 12 July 2003 that the [translation] "Israeli army returned control of Bethlehem to the Palestinian forces" after having controlled it for almost a year.

The Washington Post indicated that, following a bomb attack by the Israeli army in the West Bank, the last police force left relatively intact was located in Ramallah, and that the other police and security forces were scattered or in hiding (3 Apr. 2002).

In its 28 September 2004 report, the ICG indicated that, toward the end of the 1990s, the PA was able to improve personal security in the occupied territories and that the police and other security forces "were generally considered effective in preventing, prosecuting and reducing crime." However, subsequently, the situation deteriorated considerably (ICG 28 Sept. 2004). In 2002-2003, all of the police officers, including traffic police, had to wear civilian attire, and the governor of Bethlehem had to detain thieves in his own home because of a lack of space in prison facilities (ibid.).

Sa'ib al-Ajiz stated that the police have had major difficulties since 2001 (Al-Quds 9 Aug. 2004). He added that Israeli occupation is the Palestinian police's greatest obstacle because it makes communication difficult between the various communities (ibid.). Associated Press (AP) pointed out that a West Bank butcher, who had refused to close his store to honour the funeral of an Islamic militant, was killed (8 Nov. 2003). An official with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement claimed that this event "illustrate[d] the lawlessness caused by the virtual destruction of [the PPF] during the last three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence" (AP 8 Nov. 2003). AP indicated that, because of the lack of police intervention, families and clans took on the role of administering justice (ibid.).

The ICG indicated that, in mid-2003, the Palestinian police resumed patrolling in uniform in most cities, but they did not carry weapons (28 Sept. 2004). In addition, any non-Israeli Palestinian (including police) found with a weapon risked being shot on sight (ICG 28 Sept. 2004) or arrested (Haaretz 20 Sept. 2004).

An officer in Ramallah/El Bireh pointed out that police still retain covert weapons in case, for example, a violent feud were to be unleashed (ICG 28 Sept. 2004). In September 2004, Haaretz indicated that Palestinian chiefs of security authorized a few officers to carry weapons despite the Israeli ban (20 Sept. 2004).

The ban on carrying weapons and the fact that it is very difficult to move about within the Occupied Territories are among the greatest challenges for the Palestinian security services (Al-Quds 9 Aug. 2004; ICG 28 Sept. 2004). If a Palestinian commits a crime in Palestinian territory and then flees to Israeli territory, it is "almost impossible" to catch the individual (ibid.).

Khalid Qawasmi, head of the West Bank Association of Engineers, said that, in Hebron, "the security forces do not deal with 90 per cent of petty and medium crimes, but focus only on the most serious cases, particularly those that have an impact on public opinion" (ibid.).

Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicated in an 8 October 2003 article that Hamas members killed riot police chief Rajah Abu Lehiya "in revenge for the killing of two Palestinian demonstrators exactly one year before."

According to the ICG, the Gaza Strip police commander, Ghazi Jabali, was kidnapped on 16 or 17 July 2004 by the Jenin Martyrs' Brigades and accused of "corruption, rape and other crimes;" he was released after Yasser Arafat pledged to dismiss him (28 Sept. 2004).

Country Reports 2003 indicated that the PA did not arrest any of the presumed killers of the people who allegedly collaborated with Israel in 2003, while at least eight Palestinians were killed by fellow citizens for collaborating with Israel during that same year (25 Feb. 2004, "The Occupied Territories," Sec. 1a).

In addition, Country Reports 2003 indicated that the "PA courts were inefficient and failed to ensure fair and expeditious trials" and that the "PA provided poor conditions for prisoners" (25 Feb. 2004, "The Occupied Territories," Intro.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse (AFP). 9 August 2004. "Egypt to Train 45 Palestinian Police Officers." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2004]

_____. 12 July 2003. "Touristes et pèlerins peuvent de nouveau entrer librement à Bethléem." [Accessed 12 July 2003]

Association Press (AP) Worldstream. 8 November 2003. Ali Daraghmeh. "West Bank Killing Sparks Palestinian Clan Feud." (Dialog)

Al-Quds [Jerusalem, in Arabic]. 9 August 2004. "Palestinian Police Commander Notes Aims Behind Deployment of Police Personnel." (FBIS-NES-2004-0809 10 Aug. 2004/WNC)

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. "Israel and the Occupied Territories." United States Department of State, Washington, DC. [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]

Haaretz [Tel Aviv]. 20 September 2004. Amos Harel. "Palestinian Police Carrying Weapons Despite Israel's Ban." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2004]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2003. Human Rights Watch World Report 2003. "Israel, the Occupied Territories." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 28 September 2004. Who Governs the West Bank? Palestinian Administration Under Israeli Occupation. [Accessed 15 Oct. 2004]

Manchester Guardian Weekly. 9 January 2002. Suzanne Goldenberg. "Israeli Troops Kill Gaza Men and Arrest Palestinian Police." (NEXIS/Guardian Publication)

United Press International (UPI). 20 September 2004. "Jordan to Train Palestinian Police." (Dialog)

The Washington Post. 3 April 2002. Daniel Williams. "More Than 200 Palestinians Surrender at Security Offices; U.S.-Brokered Deal Follows Air and Land Attack; Holdouts Remain." (NEXIS/The Washington Post)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, The Jerusalem Times, Palestine Times, Palestinian Information Center.

Associated documents