Palestinian police hunt criminals in West Bank village in unusual arrest raid

Palestinian police went door-to-doorin West Bank village Yatta, searching homes and arresting 30 Palestinian criminals early Friday in an arrest raid unusual in this West Bank town.

Residents of the Hebron-area village could not recall Palestinian police every carrying out an arrest raid of this type, reminiscent of the kind carried out by Israeli soldiers searching for militants.

During the past five years of fighting, the Palestinian security forces have largely collapsed, impotent in the face of lawlessness and a gang-like takeover of towns and cities.

Following Israel's withdrawal last month from the Gaza Strip, the security situation has weighed heavily, as Palestinians begin to demand their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, bring law and order to their towns and cities. Threatened by political instability, Abbas has ordered his forces to rein in criminals and get weapons off the streets.

In Yatta, more than 200 police searched for drug and arms dealers and fugitives of justice, said Ahmed Rabai, the Hebron-area police chief.

Police entered Yatta before dawn, each officer trained for his mission and spreading out immediately throughout the town. Police surrounded homes, calling on fugitives and suspects to surrender, and finally searched the homes, confiscating illegal weapons, including assault rifles.

"This campaign was ordered by the political echelon to enforce law and order and to bring justice to normal Palestinians and to make the Palestinian people feel safe," Rabai said. "This campaign will continue not only in Yatta town but also in other villages and in the city of Hebron itself."

In Gaza, where it appears the breakdown of the security forces is most severe, three Palestinians, including a policeman, were killed when fighting erupted between police and Hamas militants.

The militant groups agreed under the terms of an Egyptian-brokered truce in February to stop displaying weapons in public, and Abbas has recently begun enforcing the ban, increasing friction with the militant groups that have in many cases taken over normal policing duties using their own brand of vigilante justice, reports the AP.


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