TEL AVIV – More than 50 Islamic Jihad terror suspects were detained across the West Bank early Tuesday, ahead of a summit meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas expected to focus on the need to curb terror.
Meanwhile, two Palestinian boys were arrested in the West Bank town of Qalqiliya in possession of improvised weapons.
The wave of arrests follows growing Palestinian violence in recent days, including the murder of an Israeli man in the northern West Bank and the arrest of a would-be female suicide bomber Monday.
Security forces have largely refrained from arresting terror suspects in recent months in the framework of the relative lull in violence. Authorities chose to only apprehend “ticking bombs,” but when it came to those assisting terrorists security officials were content with passing on names to Palestinian security forces.
The Islamic Jihad has declared it is still committed to the lull, but its terrorists have been behind a large percentage of recent terror attacks and attempts to stage strikes.
Israeli officials say that despite declarations to the contrary, the group is attempting to undermine the fragile truce.
Abbas turning blind eye to terrorists
However, at this time security officials are not planning to stage large-scale operations and are waiting for the outcome of the Sharon-Abbas summit scheduled for Tuesday. Authorities are hoping the Palestinian Authority grasps the severity of the situation and makes a more intense effort to curb terror.
Security officials told Ynet Tuesday’s summit may “determine the character of IDF activity against terror organizations in the near future.” Still, security establishment sources say chaos reigns in Palestinian Authority areas in the absence of a “master” willing to fight terror groups.
Several months ago it appeared the PA was committed to preventing terror acts, but now it seems Abbas is focusing his efforts on getting closer to terrorists, even at the price of turning a blind eye to their actions, the sources said.
Accordingly, the latest wave of arrests is meant to signal to both the Islamic Jihad and the PA that Israel’s patience is wearing thin However, the arrests mark a restrained form of activity, with the army preparing a long list of possible moves that may materialize in the face of further attacks or a collapse of security coordination between the sides.
-Ali Waked also contributed to the story