The arrest operation by the PA in the Jenin area, particularly targeting Islamic Jihad activists, poses a risk to the upcoming reconciliation meeting in Cairo, scheduled for the 30th of this month and presided over by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
The wave of arrests followed Abbas’s visit to Jenin and its refugee camp, with Islamic Jihad accusing him of breaking an agreement that forbade arrests of wanted terrorists in return for a peaceful visit. The PA denies the existence of any such agreement.
The Palestinian factions—Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front, and Democratic Front—are angered by the recent arrests and are contemplating boycotting the Cairo meeting as a form of protest. They demand the release of all political detainees.
The non-participation of these significant Palestinian factions in the Cairo meeting would deal a political blow to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who intends to use this platform to regain lost international legitimacy after pro-Iranian factions took control of northern Samaria.
Hader Habib, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, expressed concern on July 18th, stating that the PA’s insistence on arresting their activists puts the Cairo meeting in danger, and other factions might also abstain from attending. He described the arrests as “a crime and a national mistake.”
Hamas officials view the planned Cairo meeting as a trap set by Abbas for the Palestinian factions and caution them against falling into it.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas seems to ignore the sentiments of the Palestinian street, which supports armed groups in Jenin, as well as the demands of Palestinian factions to halt arresting Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in Judea and Samaria.
Israel provided the PA an opportunity to demonstrate its security control in the Jenin area, which is crucial in restoring overall control in northern Samaria.
Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the IDF and Shin Bet not to enter the Jenin area, allowing the PA to arrest wanted terrorists from Islamic Jihad.
The Biden administration expressed satisfaction with Netanyahu’s decision and conveyed to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that the ball is in his court to prove his capabilities in the fight against terrorism.
As the situation unfolds, senior PA officials estimate that Abbas may pause the arrest campaign until after the reconciliation meeting in Cairo to avoid giving the Palestinian factions an excuse to boycott the event.
Meanwhile, Hamas encourages the Palestinian street to protest for the release of detainees. The governor of Jenin, Akram Rajoub, even threatened to arrest all wanted individuals linked to the attack on Palestinian Authority facilities in the Jenin area.
PA security mechanisms attempt to infiltrate the ranks of the “Jenin Battalion” terrorist group, persuading its operatives to surrender themselves and their weapons, akin to what occurred with the “Lion’s Den” group in Nablus. However, the likelihood of success seems slim.
The “Jenin Battalion” comprises a dedicated core of Islamic Jihad activists with direct ties and loyalty to Ziad Al-Nakhallah, the Secretary-General of Islamic Jihad.
They are more cohesive and ideologically committed to Jihad against the State of Israel and the Jews than the “Lion’s Den” group in Nablus.