Sep 14, 2022 - World

U.S. "greatly" concerned over security situation in occupied West Bank

Palestinian fighters and civilians march in the village of Kafr Dan, near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank on Sept. 14.

Palestinian fighters and civilians march in the village of Kafr Dan, near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank on Sept. 14. Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration wants Israel and the Palestinian Authority to strengthen their security coordination in order to prevent further escalation in the occupied West Bank, a top State Department official said in a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is highly concerned that the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank could lead to a serious crisis, including the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.

What they're saying: "The security conditions in the West Bank do concern us greatly. They also concern Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We want to ensure that security cooperation is robust and continuing to the greatest degree possible," assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs Barbara Leaf said.

  • Leaf, who recently visited Israel and the West Bank, added that other things, including increased economic assistance, need to be done to sustain the security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “The economic condition can help improve the security conditions," Leaf added.

Driving the news: The escalation in the West Bank continued earlier Wednesday when two Palestinians opened fire on Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank, according to the Israeli military.

  • The two gunmen killed one Israeli officer before they were shot dead by Israeli soldiers. One of the Palestinian gunmen was a member of the Palestinian security forces.
  • The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades — the military wing of the Fatah movement — claimed responsibility. Fatah is the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who did not immediately comment on the incident.

Between the lines: Israeli officials are concerned about the growing involvement of members of the Palestinian security forces in attacks against Israelis and see it as another sign of the weakening of the Palestinian Authority.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a statement that the fact that one of the gunmen was a member of the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence forces “escalates things to another level."
  • “We will not hesitate to act in any place that the Palestinian Authority does not maintain order. Israel will forcefully target whoever tries to harm it," Lapid said.

The big picture: In recent months, there has been a growing number of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied West Bank, as well as an increase in Israeli military raids in Palestinian cities.

  • At the same time, an economic crisis has made it hard for the PA to pay salaries, further eroding its legitimacy and control in major Palestinian cities like Hebron, Jenin and Nablus.
  • Some 83 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of 2022 — a sharp increase from the previous year.
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