Palestinians shred files amid fear of Israeli incursion

Updated Jun 17 2020

Email

An elderly Palestinian man falls on the ground after being shot by Israeli troops during a deadly protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on Monday, May 14, 2018. — AP/File
An elderly Palestinian man falls on the ground after being shot by Israeli troops during a deadly protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, on Monday, May 14, 2018. — AP/File

RAMALLAH: Palestinian security services have been destroying secret files, fearing Israeli raids on their offices as the Jewish state weighs annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, sources in such organs say.

“We have been ordered to destroy confidential documents in our possession and we have obeyed this order,” a Palestinian security source said, adding that the instructions came from “high up”.

During the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada, which erupted in the early 2000s and included waves of suicide bombings, Israeli security forces repeatedly stormed Palestinian security services’ offices and removed confidential documents.

Several Palestinian security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the services are concerned that this could happen again if Israel moves ahead with annexation.

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, unveiled in late January, envisions Israel annexing its settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

More than 450,000 Israelis live in settlements deemed illegal under international law, alongside 2.7 million Palestinians in the wider West Bank.

Washington’s proposals provide for the creation of a Palestinian state, but on reduced territory and without Palestinians’ core demand of a capital in east Jerusalem. The plan has been rejected in its entirety by the Palestinians.

One Palestinian security source, who did not describe the nature of the documents, said the security services began destroying them a month ago, around the time Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he was ending security coordination with Israel.

Two other security sources said some documents were destroyed after they were scanned and transferred to USB drives, which were then put in “secret places”.

According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority controls all Palestinian cities in the West Bank, but the Israeli military can enter them to make arrests, in coordination with local authorities.

But in May, Abbas declared that he no longer felt bound by the treaties, saying that Israel’s annexation plans showed that it was no longer honouring the agreements.

Analysts said the end of security cooperation could inflame unrest in the West Bank. Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh recently warned of a “hot summer” if Israel goes ahead with its annexation plan.

Palestinian authorities accused Israel Tuesday of an incursion into Ramallah, the West Bank seat of the Palestinian Authority, for the first time since the end of security cooperation.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2020