RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Palestinian Authority has launched a security crackdown after a wave of lawlessness in West Bank cities.
Hundreds of masked special forces, dressed in black and armed with machine guns, were dispatched Wednesday to the northern city of Jenin in a show of force, according to its governor, Talal Dweikat. He said the troops were there "to reinforce the work of the local security forces and to help them restore law and order to the city."
Jenin has been plagued by shootings, property destruction and other attacks since Israeli troops last month killed a man during a raid at a refugee camp there. Local authorities, fearful of a return to the time, from 2000 to 2007, when armed militants controlled the streets, appealed for help from the central government.
Dweikat said the security forces had arrested dozens of people since their arrival.
The Palestinian Authority is worried that its arch-rival Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is trying to stir up trouble in the West Bank to undermine peace negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators met Thursday in Jerusalem but reported no major progress. It was their eighth meeting since the resumption of direct negotiations this summer.
With the talks stalled and Israel increasing the pace of settlement building in the West Bank, Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups have called for a third intifada, or uprising.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed in separate incidents in the West Bank last month.
The Palestinian Authority has conducted a series of raids to arrest suspected militants, notably in the southern city of Hebron, where one of the soldiers was shot and killed in what officials suspect was an attack by a Palestinian sniper.
Days earlier, a Palestinian man was said to have lured an Israeli soldier to the West Bank village of Siniria and killed him.