- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

JERUSALEM — Palestinian security services have begun assisting Israel in neutralizing Islamic militants despite the current absence of a political dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a report.

The purpose of the cooperation, believed ordered by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, is to lower the level of violence so that political negotiations leading to the creation of a Palestinian state can be resumed, the Ha’aretz newspaper reported.

Every day, Israel issues between 20 and 40 terror alerts about would-be suicide bombers, and many of them come from information provided by the Palestinian security services, not just by Israel’s own security services, Ha’aretz said. Very few of the would-be bombers make it through the security screens into Israel.

Israeli security officials in the past have acknowledged difficulty in penetrating cells of the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups. But this past summer, seven senior military commanders of those organizations were killed by Israeli forces in the Hebron area.

Palestinian sources said that in some of these cases the information on the hunted men’s whereabouts came from Palestinian security sources. The actions occurred shortly after Mahmoud Abbas began his term as Palestinian prime minister.

The Palestinian Authority has itself moved to curb suicide attacks, according to documents it has presented to American officials, claiming more than 30 preventive actions between July 2 and Oct. 9. These include the detention of would-be suicide bombers, including one female, and the neutralizing of bombs that were to have been carried into Israel. Mr. Abbas’ successor as prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, has cited these actions in meetings with foreign diplomats.

Mr. Qureia, who presided over a monthlong emergency government, is seeking to form a new government .

Islamic officials have in the past expressed suspicions that the mainstream, secular Fatah movement, backbone of the Palestinian Authority, provides information to Israel. However, neither the Islamic organizations nor Fatah want a head-on confrontation that could lead to a Palestinian civil war.

It was not clear whether Mr. Arafat himself initiated security cooperation or whether he has accepted the initiatives of moderates in the Palestinian leadership like Mr. Abbas and Mr. Qureia.

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